Portsmouth student caught up in Kenya attacks

FRIENDS Nadia Vayani, left, and radio presenter Ruhila Adatia-Sood
FRIENDS Nadia Vayani, left, and radio presenter Ruhila Adatia-Sood

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A PORTSMOUTH University student from Kenya has described her terror as innocent bystanders were murdered around her in the Westgate shopping centre siege.

First year undergraduate Nadia Vayani, 18, was leading a children’s cookery competition on the roof of the Nairobi mall when the first blast struck.

Among the 72 confirmed dead is friend Ruhila Adatia-Sood, a popular radio presenter in the city.

The journalism and media studies student, who will fly to the UK tomorrow for the start of term, said: ‘At first I thought it was a shoot-out on the streets, or a robbery but as people started shouting we realised we were under attack.

‘As soon as I heard the blasts, I stopped cutting the fruits and asked my friend what was going on, when she told me that she heard gunshots.

‘We still did not know what exactly was happening but we just wanted to be safe and get out as soon as we could. I was shaking with fear and confusion filled my mind.’

Nadia says she knows at least 20 of those confirmed dead. Friend and colleague Ruhila Adatia-Sood was six months pregnant when she was killed.

In a tribute on Facebook, she said: ‘She always said I was ‘The intern with the coolest dress sense’. I’ll never forget your cheeky giggle and shrubs at the studio during the weeks I worked with you!

‘May you and your little unborn angel rest in peace Ruhila.’

At the time of the attack, Nadia was working for East FM Kenya. She was on the roof of the Nairobi mall with 24 youngsters.

She recalls hearing gunfire as workers drove down a ramp off the rooftop at Westgate, and saw a grenade go off under a car, killing two men.

‘As we were one of the very lucky first few people who managed to exit the mall, all I could see on the streets was people running for their lives away from the mall.

‘At that moment I had no clue what was going on inside, and that it would escalate into such a massive massacre.

‘I felt confused, scared for my life and feared for my colleagues’ and friends’ lives who were trapped in the mall.’

Nadia described the scene as a ‘bloodbath’.

‘All I wanted was my dad to come and get me out of that area, as we could still hear the gunfire clearly for three hours.

‘I do feel regret, as I lost a very close friend and colleague, and many other innocent children who were invited there by us on the day.’