• About 200 mabati shacks destroyed on Wednesday morning, 200 families homeless in Deep Sea slum, Parklands, Nairobi.
• Many friends and neighbours won't take them in because they are afraid of contracting Covid-19.
More than 200 families spent Wednesday night in the cold after a fire razed their shacks in Deep Sea slums in Parklands, Nairobi.
The fire that started at about 9am destroyed the closely built mabati structures and most of the families' belongings.
Many people are afraid of taking shelter with friends and neighbours because they fear contracting Covid-19. Other people won't take them in for the same reason.
Resident Martha Mweru said the fire was caused by an electrical fault in her neighbour's house.
"I was in my house at 9am when I heard screams. I got out to see what was happening and all I could see was smoke. The electricity around here is usually faulty because it is usually connected illegally," she told the Star.
Many homeless residents are already strugging or jobless due to Covid-19.
"We have nowhere to go. Our friends and relatives will not allow us to stay in their houses since a number of people are still afraid of contracting Covid-19. We will have to stay in the cold until things get better," James Gachuki said.
Gachuki, 41, has lived in the informal settlement for 10 years and said fires are common, causing trauma every time.
"A year is not a year if there has been no fire outbreak here. As usual, we will do the same old thing, spend two weeks in the cold until we get help or I get enough money to rent a different house," he said.
Before the fire, Gachuki lived in a single room together with his wife, daughter and one-month-old granddaughter. His greatest worry now is the vulnerable infant who has to spent nights in the cold.
"I am confused, frustrated and I do not know what will happen to the young child but I hope we will get some help from well-wishers," he sai.
Just like several others who spoke to the Star, Gachuki is afraid of contracting Covid-19 if he spends nights in somebody's house.
"It is a trying time and we are asking the government to come to our rescue. There is no money because of the virus and we are afraid we could spend more days hungry and in the cold," Gachuki said.
Police officer Lazarus Kimeu said fires are common in the area and praised the Nairobi Fire Department for containing the blaze in good time.
"We have had no casualties and there are no injuries but so many houses have burnt down," he said at the scene.
The area is very congested and many houses encroach on roas so fire engines have difficulty accessing the area.
Firemen said lack of access roads in informal settlements is their biggest challenge.
(Edited by V. Graham)