Mudslide deaths rise to 12 as eight bodies retrieved

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Residents of Chesogon and security officers at an area where a mudslide killed 12 people and left thousands homeless. Photo/PD/JIMMY GITAKA 

Irene Githinji and Winstone Chiseremi 

The death toll from the mudslide that occurred at the border of West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties rose to yesterday after eight more bodies were retrieved in Chesogon.

A student of Moi University was rescued and airlifted to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret.

More than 20 people had been reported missing following the Saturday mudslide that swept away households and a police post, leaving over 4,000 residents homeless.

One of the recovered bodies was that of a policeman who went missing after the incident.

Government Spokesperson Cyrus Oguna, said in a statement said the government had dispatched assorted food stuff for distribution among flood victims, adding that five  police officers and two civilians had been airlifted to MTRH, while 13 others were treated and discharged.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i yesterday said nearly 400 households have been affected by the flash floods occasioned by heavy rains.

He appealed to Kenyans living in mudslide-prone areas to move to safer grounds as the weatherman has forecast enhanced rainfall in coming days.

The Kenya Meteorological Department has warned that ongoing heavy rains will increase and could extend to May.

Some of the areas cited as prone to risk are Murang’a, Taita Taveta, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Nyando in Kisumu, Garissa and parts of Kitui county.

“We can tell clearly that we are going to have challenges of flooding in some parts of the country and we have been warned. 

Let us listen to what we are being told. When we can see an impending danger, it is our responsibility as to advise our people appropriately and we have done this,” said Matiang’i.

He said the government does not want to use force to move defiant residents, noting that advisories to move have already been issued high-risk areas.

“Let us all take responsibility, its our lives not about Government. We are working jointly to see how we can assist and support our people move to safer and higher grounds... the message we have is please heed the warning, move to higher ground.

Condolences to Kenyans from families that lost their loved one, including two police officers.”

Dams spillage

Matiang’i spoke at the Meteorological Department headquarters in Nairobi as he dismissed proposals to have the government buy off flood-prone areas and move residents.

 “Tragedies should not lead us to making drastic decisions. We want to use our resources well as we are also fighting the coronavirus disease,” said the CS.

Matiang’i was accompanied by his counterparts Charles Keter (Energy), Keriako Tobiko (Environment) and Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution) as well as KMD director Stella Aura.

Keter said the Eastern hydros are currently full and there is already spillage from Masinga Dam, noting that in the next two days, those living on the lower parts of Garissa and Tana River may experience flooding and are hence advised to move to safer grounds.

“There is an overflow of about 300 cubic meters per second in all the dams,” he said. 

Wamalwa said the government has already sent relief food and non-food items to support those affected by mudslides in Elgeyo Marakwet.

The government and in conjunction with humanitarian organisations, including the Kenya Red Cross Society, yesterday started distributing food and non-food items to hundreds of displaced families in Chesogon.

The exercise is being coordinated by Elgeyo Marakwet County Commissioner Ahmed Omar and his West Pokot counterpart Apollo Okello in partnership with the county governments officials.

Omar said the displaced families who have sought refuge in primary schools along Kerio Valley will receive blankets, tents, mosquito nets, bar soaps and food items.

Chesogom market, which was opened last year to enhance peace among the warring Pokot and Marakwet communities was washed away as well as Chesogon police post.–

Omar warned that those who will defy the government’s order to move from dangerous areas, that they will be compelled to use chiefs and assistant chiefs to evacuate them by force as part of the measures to avert more loss of lives and property.

Okello regretted that some areas had been cut off, making it had for them to deliver food aid to some displaced families.

 Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya toured the area yesterday.

He said a command centre had been set up at Sambalat primary and Cheptulel Secondary schools in the two counties to coordinate rescue and relief mission.

Elsewhere in Narok, Melili residents expressed fears of being marooned after two bridges were swept by flash floods on Sunday.

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