Seabee recounts daunting task of pulling survivor from Kenya rubble
January 26, 2006
There were more.
In spite of the “utter joy” crews felt when they pulled a survivor from the wreckage of Monday’s building collapse in Nairobi, Kenya, in the back of their minds streamed a droning thought, said Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Allen, one of the rescuers.
“There were more, more who were trapped,” the 30-year-old U.S. Seabee said Wednesday in a choppy cell phone interview from the Kenyan capital city.
Allen, on the tail end of a six-month deployment to the neighboring east African nation of Djibouti, was among those Tuesday who rescued a survivor.
“When we pulled the man out alive, everyone was cheering and clapping and were so relieved, even though we knew there were more,” Allen said.
The death toll stood at 17 on Wednesday as crews from Kenya, Israel, the United States and Britain labored to pull mangled bodies from the collapsed five-story building on Ronald Ngala Street in downtown Nairobi.
According to The Associated Press, about 280 construction workers were at the site when the building came down, survivors said. Officials have accounted for 108 people, including the dead and injured. Relatives have named 10 people they said were missing, AP reported.
As far as U.S. Army Capt. Anthony Evanego was concerned, Wednesday’s efforts remained a search-and-rescue mission — though hope was fading that rescuers would continue to find survivors.
The U.S. military crew arrived in Nairobi from Djibouti at 5 a.m. Tuesday and immediately went to work to dig out victims, said Evanego, a 20-year reservist and civil engineer.
Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa, headquartered at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, sent 15 Seabees, Evanego, and an Air Force combat cameraman to the scene, said spokeswoman 1st Lt. Lanourra Phillips.
The U.S. Embassy in Kenya provided 120 cases of bottled water, supplied a water tanker, and arranged for specialized equipment such as compressors, jackhammers, cranes, lights, dump trucks and a front-end loader, according to an embassy statement.
AP also reported that police also stepped up their search for the owners of the building.
The Kenyan government said Tuesday that the building owner and contractor were rushing the labor and failed to let the wet concrete properly set.