Westgate Mall hostage crisis
GENEVA, Switzerland, September 23, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Shortly before 1pm on Saturday 21 September, an armed group gained forceful entry into Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, a popular shopping centre with the diplomatic community, Kenyans and foreigners. This armed group attacked members of the public with hand grenades and guns.
The Kenya Red Cross Society was the first to respond to the emergency and was on the scene within minutes of the incident. The response time was enhanced by a Red Cross ambulance that was on standby at the Westgate Mall rooftop parking lot. The response is being led by the Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society, Dr Abbas Gullet, who simultaneously activated national, regional and county disaster response teams to provide life support assistance and psychosocial support, conduct search and rescue, evacuations of casualties, tracing, and reunite family members.
Within the first hour, the Kenya Red Cross Society had sent 12 Advanced Life Support ambulances to the scene, which were supported by an additional team of paramedics from the Emergency Medical Services (E-Plus) and a fleet of service land cruisers.
In addition to the national response teams, volunteers were mobilized from several branches including Parklands, Nairobi and Karen Langata. They were joined by staff and volunteers from nearby Red Cross branches, including the Kiambu, Machakos and Makueni branches. Staff and volunteers at other branches across the country are also on standby.
The response teams include members who are trained in first aid, fire safety, tracing and restoration of family links, and psychosocial counselling.
There is an urgent need for blood donations with close to 200 casualties admitted in several hospitals across the city. Kenya Red Cross Society is leading a nationwide blood drive. Several blood donation centres have been activated across Nairobi.
The Red Cross has also set up a 24-hour operational centre at Visa Oshwal Centre, a few metres from Westgate Shopping Mall. Services being provided are triage, life support and evacuation, as people are released from the building.
The humanitarian operation continues to be led by the Kenya Red Cross Society. The Red Cross is providing constant updates as the situation develops through its online and social media channels, including on www.kenyaredcross.org, Twitter and Facebook.