For 36 hours he was buried alive in the darkness with a broken leg

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The Independent Online
BOMB VICTIMS Sammy and Rose have become household names in Nairobi since Friday's devastating attack on the United States embassy.

Yesterday Sammy Nganga, the only person to be pulled alive from Ufundi House, the flattened office block next door to the embassy, spoke from hospital for the first time about Rose, the woman he befriended beneath a mountain of concrete but had to leave behind.

It is Rose that rescue teams, after four days of recovering only the dead, are still battling to reach, hoping that she, at least, may just still be alive. It was for Rose yesterday that the mechanical diggers stopped and the watching crowd fell silent as a microphone was lowered into the mess of stone and twisted metal.

An hour later Mr Nganga, a scrap metal dealer, was remembering his last words to Rose before he was lifted to the surface. "I said to her: 'I am going now'," he said, his badly smashed left leg raised on a chair, and a gash stretching from his eyebrows to his hairline. " 'But they are coming for you.' She asked: 'Why can't they take me first?' "

While Rose managed to communicate for two days with rescuers tunnelling through the debris, it is not known if she is still alive. Contact with her faded, and then ceased, on Sunday afternoon. There was no sign of life until yesterday morning when the rescue teams, crawling like ants over the ruins, called for quiet.

While their microphone picked up no voices, a faint noise was heard. It gave hope to rescuers who have worked round the clock only to reach the dead, with the exception of Mr Nganga. More than 100 perished here. At least 16 more bodies were pulled from the debris yesterday.

If Rose, who has a badly burned face, is still alive her suffering must be terrible. Mr Nganga, who went into Ufundi House only to use the telephone, described yesterday how he lay injured in darkness, losing all sense of time, while he waited for rescuers to reach him. It was 36 hours before he was pulled from the ruins.

He did not sleep and never lost consciousness. He used a few matches to light his tiny space and decide which was the safest spot to occupy. "I thought of God," he said. "I thought of death. I thought another bomb might come, or another collapse." But the voices of the rescuers kept his spirits up.

Mr Nganga was with two other men on the first floor of the four-storey building when the first minor explosion occurred. The trio ran into the corridor. Like other survivors, Mr Nganga says he then heard gunfire - yet to be officially explained. A second, bigger blast followed, hurling him down the hall. It was then that he felt his leg break.

As the floors and ceilings collapsed he was thrust under a stairwell which protected him from falling concrete. When the dust settled he shouted for help. "I called: 'Where are you, where are you?', but no one answered," he said. Eventually he began to talk to Rose, trapped on the other side of a supporting wall. Rescuers have been forced to burrow another tunnel to reach her, to avoid further collapse.

Mr Nganga's two companions are still missing in a city where at least 40 bodies lie unidentified on mortuary slabs, many mutilated beyond recognition.

In the chaos, families are touring hospitals looking for the missing. Then they try the morgues; forcing themselves to study rows of charred and damaged bodies. An already appalling situation is exacerbated by poverty. In Kenya phones are luxuries, and communication poor. Mr Nganga's cousin Dominic Muhoro, 54, only found out that he had been in the explosion when he saw him, drenched in blood, being pulled from the wreckage on television on Saturday night.

Mr Muhoro spent all day Sunday scouring Nairobi's hospitals. Mr Nganga is a poor man and Mr Muhoro did not try the private Nairobi Hospital. Yesterday morning he finally read that Mr Nganga was making a remarkable recovery there.

"We were so shocked to see him on television," said a beaming Mr Muhoro, by his cousin's bedside. "We are surprised he survived. But then we are surprised this happened in our country."

While some Kenyans complain the US must bear some responsibility for a national tragedy because security was lax, Mr Muhoro laid the blame firmly with the terrorists. "We feel very angry with them," he said. "How could they do this to us?" But he said the bomb victims were poor and he hoped the international community and the US might help with hospital bills.

With a devastated city centre and more than 200 confirmed dead, other Kenyans are also talking about US compensation. But Mr Nganga seems just glad to be alive. When he was finally freed he could not stop thanking his Israeli rescuers. "And I said thank you God," he said yesterday.

Sammy's survival was a miracle. Another is now needed for Rose.