Uhuru condoles with families affected in Mwingi bus incident

NATIONAL |

President Uhuru Kenyatta.

President Uhuru Kenyatta sent his condolences to the families that lost loved ones in the incident in Mwingi, Kitui County when a bus they were traveling in plunged into River Enziu yesterday.

At the same time, the President wished quick recovery to those that were injured in the incident.

The President wished to remind Kenyans to heed government advisory against attempting to cross swollen rivers, especially during the current rainy season.

More information on the unfortunate incident and measures the government is taking to prevent similar mishaps from reoccurring will be shared in due course.

A total of 19 people drowned after a bus they were travelling in was swept away.

The deceased are members of Mwingi Catholic church, who were headed for a wedding.

Christopher Musili, a survivor, said church members, a good number who belong to its choir were travelling to Nuu market to attend the wedding of one of their members when the accident occurred.

A shaken Musili said the 51-seater bus was full, and some church members were standing, an indication the bus had more than 50 passengers.

By yesterday evening, 19 bodies had been retrieved from the water. By the time of filing this report, the bodies were still at the scene.

Mwingi East sub-county police commander Joseph Yakan said the bodies would be moved to Mwingi Level IV hospital mortuary. 

Yakan, who was coordinating the rescue operation, said the mission was still ongoing, saying more bodies were still trapped in the bus. He said 10 survivors had been rescued. According to a video clip taken moments before the bus plunged into the river, the vehicle could be seen on the banks of River Enziu, some three kilometres from Nguni market with a sizeable crowd looking on.

After some minutes, the driver decided to drive through, but the bus missed the underground bridge and was toppled by moving waters. At this stage, the onlookers began shouting and wailing as the bus was slowly swallowed by the waters with all passengers on board.

Few brave young men who had been standing on the banks of the river were seen plunging into the water in a bid to rescue passengers. Out of their efforts, 10 people were rescued.

Dr Evans Mumo, the Mwingi level IV medical superintendent told The Sunday Standard that six survivors were brought to the hospital, adding that their condition was improving.

“We have six who have been brought to our facility. At first, they were badly off but their condition is improving,” Dr Mumo said.

He said their ambulances were at the accident scene to transport the bodies to the hospital morgue.

It is believed that most of the church members drowned while still inside the bus and few attempted to swim. Other sources said the driver was under pressure from the passengers, some who thought they were getting late for the wedding that was to start at noon.

The driver is said to have gathered the courage to attempt driving through the fast waters after a matatu coming from the opposite direction made a daring cross successfully. Unknown to him, at the time he was driving through, the water levels had risen.

The spot where the bus overturned is a notorious blackspot known for sweeping away vehicles. 

Last year, a Toyota probox vehicle was swept off with five occupants on board and buried in the river bed for over a week. The bodies were later retrieved caked in mud.

A few weeks later, two charcoal dealers drowned within the same area after their lorry was swept away by the raging waters.

Area residents have for years been appealing to the national government to erect a bridge across the killer river that connects the busy Nuu market with Mwingi town.

The all-weather road from Nguni market to Nuu is being tarmacked but there are no indications that the bridge would be constructed.

“We will continue dying along this river as long as there is no bridge. This river has killed so many people we have even lost count, but this is the worst tragedy,” said Mwikali Mwanza, a resident.

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