At least seven students have been killed and scores wounded after a classroom collapsed in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, according to emergency services.
The incident at the two-storey Precious Talent Top School took place a few minutes after 7am local time (04:00 GMT) on Monday .
“So far, we can confirm seven students have died and 57 injured,” Peter Abwao, public relations and communications manager at Kenya Red Cross, told Al Jazeera.
“There were students in the upper classes of the building when it collapsed,” Abwao said. “We are still searching to make sure all students have been rescued.”
Abwao said that according to its officials, the school has some 800 pupils aged below 14.
Many of the parents and relative were in shock and struggling to come to terms with the tragedy, as officials tried to console them.
“I had just dropped my son to school, and heard screams on my way back, and that is when I found people assisting them out to hospital,” Margaret Muthoni, whose four-year-old son was injured, told AFP news agency.
“I am just lucky my son survived with injuries. It is a very unfortunate incident because some children have died,” Muthoni added.
Kepha Otieno said he lost his five-year-old daughter to the tragedy.
“I just can’t believe. It is too hard for me and the family,” he said.
Evanson Kamuri, chief executive of the Kenyatta National Hospital, said two of the injured children were in critical condition, while others had soft tissue injuries or light wounds and were being examined.
Al Jazeera’s Catherine Wambua-Soi, reporting from the school, described a scene “of absolute horror”.
“Unimaginable pain on the faces of the parents who have gathered here,” she said, adding that the government had launched an investigation into the incident.
“The [education] minister said he does not want to speculate but said it does not appear like the second storey of the building was approved by authorities. Many people here are also questioning the quality of materials used to construct the school,” Wambua-Soi said.
Local legislator John Kiarie told KTN television that it appeared the first floor had collapsed on children on the ground floor – however details were sketchy.
The school was a private institution. Kiarie said the area had no public land on which to construct a proper public school.
He said the disaster highlighted the lack of “regulation of educational institutions, especially those in informal settlements … regulations that pertain to the construction and stability of educational institutions.”
Moses Nyakiongora, an official with the National Building Inspectorate said at the scene: “This school was not properly constructed. It is totally substandard.”
Kenya’s schools have suffered several tragedies in recent years, such as a mysterious series of arson attacks targeting boarding schools that often go unsolved.
In 2017, nine teenage girls were killed in such an attack.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies