Flash floods and massive landslides wreak havoc in western Kenya

Flash floods and massive landslides wreak havoc in western Kenya

Heavy rains triggered devastating landslides and flash flooding in the counties of Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot, Kenya, over the weekend, leaving a path of destruction. At least 4 000 people have been displaced, 24 people are missing, and 6 were killed, including 2 police officers.

On Saturday evening, April 18, massive landslides and flooding hit the villages of Kipchumwa and Chesegon. According to the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD), affected areas were unreachable after bridges were washed away.

Liter Girls High School in Marakwet East was also wiped out, as well as several houses, including a police post. The incident occurred after the Lomut River broke its banks, KMD added. 24 people, including one police officer, were still missing but authorities assured that search operations are underway.

At least 4 000 people have been displaced, with some villagers scavenging through debris in hopes of finding their loved ones buried alive by mud and boulders. Four policemen who were buried under the mud were found alive and were airlifted to a hospital.

A local named Sarah Nekesa detailed her experience during the tragedy, saying she survived when she, along with her six-month-old baby, held onto a tree branch for more than three hours as she witnessed several people being washed away by raging waters.

"When I opened the door, I saw raging water and rocks rolling furiously towards our house. I screamed and asked my husband who was sleeping with the child to come out immediately. He almost ignored my distress calls saying it was ordinary floods experienced in the area," she stated.

"When a huge boulder hit a neighboring house, he came out holding the child and rushed to safety, but on second thought he went back inside saying he had forgotten the keys to the armory. I asked him to hand over the child."

"After I took the baby, we ran to safety, leaving him behind. I don’t know about his whereabouts."

Another survivor named Benson Loriwonyan said he had gone to a posho mill in the Chesegon market when the disaster struck.

"We heard an unusual rumbling sound, akin to a huge airplane. When I set out to check, I was met with huge rocks rolling downhill. I rushed back inside and alerted those who were in the posho mill to quickly save themselves from the oncoming floods."

He continued, "It’s by luck that we found ourselves clinging onto the branches of thorny acacia trees."

According to local media, all buildings were virtually destroyed. The trading center, which hosts more than 500 people in a day, was left in crumbles. 

Authorities pledged humanitarian aid to the affected families, including relief items and shelter. Other agencies were also urged to step in and support the victims.

"I will rally my colleagues in Parliament to pass a Motion to compel the government to resettle all families living in landslide-prone areas in West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo counties to stop the cycle of disasters every rainy season," said Elgeyo Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen.

According to KMD's forecast, heavy downpours will continue over most parts of the country in the following days. Rains are forecast to reduce by April 25.

Featured image credit: KMD

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