02-03-2023 by Freddie del Curatolo
It is still exhausting to process a grief that is so difficult to accept. Not so much because those who live and work in Kenya cannot expect such incidents, although fortunately on the coast it happens at most one a year of this magnitude, but because with 182 resort guests it fell to a slim, smiling girl from Bergamo who until two minutes before was so excited about her African vacation, complete with safari in the company of her affectionate cousin who had already been to Malindi and had decided to return with her to Watamu. It was an instinctive gesture, a rush to the room to save some personal belongings as everyone made their way to safety.
This is not the first time a hotel or residence has gone up in flames. The list in my 33 years in Kenya is very long.
Angel's Bay in Mambrui has burned as many as three times. We have seen the Watamu Beach reduced to ashes first, then the historic Palm Tree in Kibokoni, the Dorado which never reopened, the Stephanie Sea House which was half-saved, the Lily Palm and the Alawi still in Watamu and so on, not counting the 30 villas in Casuarina and the Indiana Beach in Bamburi, near Mombasa.
Long list and few corrections, both to makuti which it would be time to sincerely ban for non-isolated structures (sorry for its beauty and how it keeps the environment cool, but it belongs now to another era, another Kenya) and to the fire stations which are not only lacking in neuralgic places, but it just so happens that when it comes to emergencies they always have some problem: broken pumps, missing water, not enough gasoline.
And then health care. Of course, when it comes to health care in these parts, one would think that if the minimum requirements are lacking, if in the country still, according to human rights organizations, people still die of pain in hospital wards due to lack of painkillers, what can one expect?
Decent healthcare is private healthcare everywhere. Ergo, if no one builds a proper clinic in Watamu, anyone with problems will have to be transported to Mombasa, and better yet to Nairobi.
But without serious medical insurance, nothing is a given.
This is Kenya, and as the saying goes, "you wait for the dead" to bring up problems each time that, despite the country's growth as services, security and awareness, compared to years past, fails to offer guarantees, because at the same time society grows and changes and urbanization even in tourist areas. With the risk that paradise suddenly turns into hell with no way out or fire extinguishers. We always think positive and want to believe that Governor Gideon Mung'aro's timely visit to Watamu was not just "routine" and that his meeting with the community, tourism entrepreneurs and residents bodes well. There have already been promises.
We will have to do all we can so that we do not have to mourn any more absurd departures, considering that it is true that we count one tragic victim, but we also have to admit that in Watamu, other local and foreign hotels and businesses have had it easy. A different wind and we would be here mourning much more.
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