The Moi Girls’ High School, Nairobi, weekend fire tragedy yesterday claimed a young heroine who gave up her own safety to rescue colleagues from the inferno.
Fifteen-year-old Mary Njengo Mokaya, who was one of the 11 critically injured survivors admitted to Nairobi Women’s Hospital, lost the battle due to 66 per cent burns she sustained. Mary died as Education Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i disclosed that preliminary investigations had revealed the fire was started deliberately and vowed to nail the culprits.
While announcing that the death toll had risen to nine, Matiang’i said: “Most of the investigations are done and I can tell you unequivocally, I have been briefed by the police…that it was not an accident,” he told the media at his Jogoo House office.
There was deep pain and tears for Mary as her relatives and some of her colleagues remembered how she helped rescue many who survived the Saturday morning incident. According to her colleagues, Mary who was the first to notice the fire, frantically ran around the dormitory shouting and waking up her fellow students as the flames raged.
“As she raised the alarm, she did not run for the exit but instead moved up and down pulling out those who were barely awake and confused in the smoke,” one of the survivors said yesterday.
Doctors at the hospital said that in her efforts to rescue her fellow students, Mary inhaled a lot of carbon monoxide and sustained severe burns before she jumped out of the Kabarnet dormitory which accommodated about 250 students.
The school’s Parents Association chair Charles Odhiambo said: “It is unfortunate that this had to happen to our girl but it was not in vain as she will be remembered for her courage and selflessness,” said Odhiambo.
Her face was so badly burnt that only her aunt, Anna Amali, and other relatives could identify her at the ICU. She was expected to be transferred to Kenyatta National Hospital for reconstructive surgery but succumbed to the injuries on Sunday night.
Her body was taken to Chiromo Mortuary. Her aunt, who represented her mother, told People Daily yesterday that it was in Mary’s nature to help people who are in need.
“We had hoped she would fight for her life with the same zeal she fought for others but we just have to accept God’s will. We will forever remember her and the mark she left on many people’s lives in her last moments,” said a teary Amali.
Meanwhile, other parents who lost their children in the inferno will have to wait for two weeks for DNA test results. National Disaster Management Unit (NDMU) deputy director Pius Masai said parents with missing children should report today for identification, DNA and postmortem which will be conducted by the government pathologist.
“The police will also be here for recording of statements but we appeal to affected parents to be patient as the results will be released in a week or two,” said Masai. Specimens for DNA tests will be taken from biological parents and siblings.
Abubakar Sheikh, a parent to Form One student Natalie Asiko, had by yesterday not received information about the whereabouts of his daughter from the school management despite NDMU insisting that the bodies in the mortuary matched the number of complaints received from parents. He is expected to report for the autopsy exercise today.
Matiang’i, who doubles up as acting Interior CS, said police are pursuing useful leads. He promised that the government would support the school to ensure it recovers from the tragedy.
Matiang’i also blamed local communities in areas where some school dormitories have recently been torched, saying school leadership disputes are responsible for the arson attacks. He said school principals are posted by the Teachers Service Commission and warned locals against inciting students to burn schools to express their rejection of school heads. – People Daily