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Gikomba survivors recall moments after explosives detonated

Survivors of the Gikomba twin explosions have recounted happenings at the popular market after the blasts.

The attack, which saw 12 killed and over 75 hospitalised, targeted a market known traditionally to sell second-hand clothes.

“I heard the first blast, but ignored it. I thought, maybe, it was just a tyre burst. I moved back a few yards before the second explosion went off,” said Mr Timothy Eboya who had gone to buy bed sheets.

He had visited the market several times, he said, and not at any moment had he been worried about his safety.

“Moments later, I realised blood was oozing from my chest. I didn’t know I had been hit by an object because everyone was running. It was chaotic,” the 51-year-old mason from Emuhaya in Vihiga County told reporters from his bed.

He was spending the second day at the hospital, but he admitted his family was not aware he was among those injured in the terror attacks.

His phone, he said, was charging when the blast went off. And when he tried calling home later, no one picked. He still hopes they know he is recovering. He spoke as he showed a bandaged wound near his stomach.

Ms Janet Kahonga went to Gikomba to buy sweaters. Standing in a stall where second-hand pullovers were being sold, she said all she heard were two successive blasts before everyone started running.

“I had been there less than five minutes when I heard the explosions. We were many people in that stall selecting sweaters. But something hit me on my head after the second blast went off.”

Moments later, rescuers loaded her onto an ambulance.

Mr Timothy Kahera, who sells clothes at Gikomba, said he walked out of his stall to check what was happening when he heard the first explosion.

“Then the second one went off. I tried to run but, after a few yards, I realised I was bleeding.”

His stall was near an electric transformer, where clothes were strewn high up the electric cables. He said he would rethink going back to Gikomba once he leaves hospital.

Kenyatta National Hospital’s emergency wing has handled several terror victims since October 2011 when Kenya Defence Forces entered Somalia.

The country’s largest public hospital has treated several head and limb injuries sustained by survivors of suspected terrorist attacks believed to have been perpetuated by Somali militants Al-Shabaab.

The group has not acknowledged responsibility for the Gikomba blast. Most of the survivors of the Friday explosion said they were confused because it was the first time they were caught up in the commotion of a terror attack.

Two sisters, Levinah and Jennifer Soita, said they were going about shopping when an explosion went off. They ran to save their lives.

“We were to get back to town from Gikomba when my sister saw a blouse that attracted her. She asked me to have a look at it before we proceed to town. But shortly after, we heard a loud blast,” said Jennifer.

“When I heard the first blast, I was confused, because I had never experienced this. I ran a short distance and fell down. I ran because other people were running and I thought maybe it was a good thing to do,” she added from her hospital bed.

“We had gone to do shopping, we were standing beside the road then the explosion happened, I fell down and my sister fell down too. I lost consciousness and found myself in hospital,” Levinah said.

For Maureen Waithera, a student, shopping at Gikomba was not a new thing. She was at the market as she had done many times before. But as she passed by a petrol station, the blasts happened.

“A car passed by, then all of a sudden, it exploded. A few minutes later, next to where I was standing, there was another object that went off,” she said.

“I don’t know whether it was thrown or was buried in the ground, but I remember seeing dust and objects being thrown in the air. I was shocked, but tried to run asking for help. I fell down. I was injured in my leg and my chest.”

They were speaking from Ward 42 of the hospital meant for emergency cases. But these days, it could be labelled the ‘ward for terror survivors’ since nearly everyone admitted there has injuries from a terrorist attack.

Bandaged legs and limbs, slung arms, and other injuries are a common feature in the ward. There were 36 survivors from the Gikomba incident in the ward.

The hospital said it admitted 103 patients from the attack, 58 male while the rest were female. By last evening at 6 pm, 47 had been treated and discharged. Some 12 others had been moved to various hospitals in the city.

The number of people who died on arrival were eight. Four others had died immediately the explosions went off, making a total of 12.

“The management and the staff have managed to handle the cases very well, and all the patients as we speak are in stable condition, Ms Lily Koros, the hospital’s chief executive, told journalists in a briefing.

“We received the support of the public. We have received some blood as we are talking now, which is assisting in the operations. Everything is under control,” she said.

“We can say that what (blood) we have is able to handle the cases that have been taken to the theatre and those in the theatre. Unless there is any other issue that might emerge, we can say we are not in dire need at the moment but of course blood is something that is required not only by the victims but other patients in hospital.”