Fourteen children were killed and dozens more injured following a stampede on Monday at the end of classes at a primary school in western Kenya, local authorities announced.
The tragedy was confirmed by Western Region Police Commander Peris Kimani, although he could not provide further details.
“We have launched an investigation to establish what exactly happened,” he said, amid some reports suggesting that the staircase collapsed and that some children fell from the third floor of the building.
Education Minister George Magoha told Citizen TV, “The loss of a child is very painful. My condolences to parents who have lost their children.”
The Red Cross was one of the first organizations on the ground responding to the incident.
“As kids were going home from school there was a stampede as they were going down the stairs,” said Red Cross Kenya spokesperson Peter Abwao. “It’s a three-story building, it’s a classroom block.”
Fatal stampede at Kakamega Primary School; Kenya Red Cross and @EMS_Kenya responding.
— Kenya Red Cross (@KenyaRedCross) February 3, 2020
At least 39 children were wounded, although 20 were treated at a nearby hospital and have already been discharged. The condition of those still in hospital is thought to be more severe.
The tragedy raises further questions about the safety of Kenya’s schools and other forms of infrastructure. Former prime minister and current leader of the opposition Raila Odinga declared “there must be an immediate and thorough probe to get to the bottom of this incident.”
“My heartfelt condolences to parents that have lost loved ones in the unfortunate and regrettable tragedy at Kakamega Primary School,” he wrote on Twitter. “I wish a quick recovery to the injured children and pray that God grant strength to the affected families”:
My heartfelt condolences to parents that have lost loved ones in the unfortunate and regrettable tragedy at Kakamega Primary School. I wish a quick recovery to the injured children and pray that God grant strength to the affected families.
— Raila Odinga (@RailaOdinga) February 3, 2020
In September last year, nine pupils died and dozens more were injured after a classroom collapsed at a school in central Nairobi. The school’s principal, Moses Ndirangu, blamed the collapse on the construction of a nearby sewage system, which he said had weakened the foundations of the building.
7 children died in Nairobi, Kenya after a school classroom collapsed, with over 60 injured. The government is often criticized for not enforcing building safety inspections, with an estimated ~30K buildings listed as "unsafe." pic.twitter.com/Z9xtmpC6XC
— AJ+ (@ajplus) September 23, 2019
Days later, the Kenyan government announced the closure of St Catherine’s Children Education Centre Bombolulu near Nairobi over safety concerns.
“We are acting in the best interest of our children. This building is not any different from the one that collapsed in Dagoretti. If anything happens I will be the one to blame,” Magoha said at the time. “This is just a start and we are going to crack down on all schools in the country with poor structures.”