Country risks Humanitarian crisis as floods wreak havoc

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020 00:00 |
Residents move to safer areas with some of their property salvaged from their marooned houses in Usonga, Alego/Usonga Sub-County. Photo/PD/ERIC JUMA

Noah Cheploen, Murimi Mutiga, Noven Owiti  and Mathew Ndung’u

Four people were until last night feared dead after a boat they were using to cross River Athi in Ngoliba, Thika county capsized.

The boat had six male occupants when it sunk but two managed to swim to safety.

While rescue operations were still ongoing at the time of going to press, there were fears that heavy rains pounding the area could hamper the mission.

“We still don’t know the situation of the other four. Rescue efforts have commenced using local divers even as we seek assistance elsewhere,” said Ngoliba chief Alice Njoki.

Area MCA Joakim Mwangi Njama said  the county was sending experienced divers to help in rescue efforts.

This is even as the country was yesterday staring at a humanitarian disaster as more homes, crops, roads and bridges were destroyed by floods forcing thousands of people—in at least 15 counties—to seek refuge in temporary camps.

Yesterday, the government warned people living in Nzoia Basin and Rwambwa area in particular, to be on the lookout as above normal rainfall is forecasted to hit the area for three consecutive days. 

Consequently, Flood Diagnostics and Forecasting Centre (FDFC) which falls under the Ministry of Environment has added Nzoia Basin to the list of “High Flood Risk” areas as various parts of the country continued to witness heavy rainfall. 

The flood menace might complicate the fight against coronavirus by making it impossible to enforce curfew regulations and social distancing owing to the dire situation in the camps. 

According to Kenya Red Cross, at least 30,000 people have been displaced by floods following heavy rains that started in March with Nyando in Kisumu county and several villages in Tana River county bearing the heaviest brunt.

More than 14,000 people have been displaced in Nyando and other areas in Kisumu after their homes were submerged in water and, the number of those displaced in Tana River rose further yesterday after 500 families were forced to flee their homes.

Another phenomenon being witnessed is the rising of water levels in the country’s two major water bodies: Lake Nakuru and Lake Victoria where more than 1,000 people have been displaced in the last five days after residents woke up to find their homes marooned.

About 5,000 residents of Mwariki and Barut risk being displaced after the volume of water at the Lake Nakuru National Park rose to unprecedented levels. 

Nakuru West Assistant County Commissioner Elmie Shaffie toured the affected area accompanied by local MP Samuel Arama two days ago and assured affected families the government was aware of their plight.

Transportation paralysed

At the same time, hundreds of people are stranded after floods cuts off road linking Tana River and Garissa counties at Dukanotu area paralysing transportation of essential goods and people for the last three days.

More than 30 lorries and trucks transporting goods including vegetables were stuck on both sides of the road for the better part of the day after it was rendered impassable.

The road also connects Mombasa with other Coast and North Eastern counties.

Transporters are worried that the situation could get worse because water levels rise each day. The rains have also destroyed crops in over 1,500 acres of land.

Kenya Red Cross (KRC) vehicles heading to Sala ward, one of the areas worse affected by the floods, were among those stuck on the section of the road.

“If the situation persists there could be need of using helicopters to access the affected areas,” said KRC Coast regional manager Hassan Musa.

“We have been forced to return to Malindi as it is difficult to reach the over 500 households that have been affected in Sala and Mororo by the floods,” he said. 

Meanwhile, some 310 families in seven villages in Karachuonyo sub-county in Homa Bay county have been displaced by floods in the last three days.  

The torrents were caused by River Miriu which burst its banks due to heavy rains. Area disaster manager Kennedy Ochola Willys Okeyo said the situation is predisposing the victims to risks of Covid-19 infection.

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