Most people stay put despite El Nino warning

A pedestrian crosses a bridge in Kisii. Residents fear rains might sweep away most makeshift bridges. [Photo: Denish Ochieng/Standard)

Despite being warned by the weatherman over imminent danger posed by expected El Nino rains, residents living in low-lying areas have refused to move, saying they don’t have anywhere to go.

The Kenya Meteorological Department has warned that El Nino will rock some parts of the coastal region from October 7, and asked the residents to prepare for possible flooding.

Residents living near Mwache bridge in Kwale County that was swept off by the 1997 El Nino rains have ignored calls to move saying they don’t have the means and resources to relocate to safer areas.

Tsuma Mtoro, who lives a few metres from the Mwache river, said that is the only place he has called home since 1987.

Residents of Mombasa County’s biggest slums have not been prepared on how to deal with the impending El Nino rains despite heightened fears.

Task force

County officials have warned that hundreds of local residents are threatened with flooding and have formed a multi-agency task force to prepare for El Nino. The team is chaired by Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho.

Last week, the task force identified Majengo Mapya in Likoni, Changamwe, Kongowea, Kisauni and the Island as areas likely to be affected.

Officials warned residents in landslide-prone areas such as Kalahari slums in Changamwe, Mwakirunge, Jomvu Kuu and Mshomoroni to vacate to safer grounds.

And victims of the 1997 El Nino rains in parts of Elgeyo escarpment are yet to be re-settled after they were rendered homeless by a landslide that hit the area. They fear the same would happen if the El Nino predictions come true.

“In 1997 El Nino rains, people, livestock and property were swept down the escarpment by massive landslides,” recollects Joseph Kibet, a resident of Kabechei in Keiyo South where landslides are a perennial problem.

He said they are willing to surrender the landslide-prone areas to the Government to be used for conservation through afforestation and be given alternative land that is safe for human settlement.

Residents living in landslide-prone areas of Elgeyo escarpment have been asked to move to safer grounds ahead of the anticipated El Nino rains set to begin this month.

Embolot, Embobut, Endo, Kaben and Mumol locations in Marakwet East Sub County have been mapped as potential landslide regions with residents in Kapcherop, Chebororwa and Kipsaya in Marakwet West sub-county having also been asked to move to safer grounds.

Other areas that have been singled as potential landslide-prone areas include Kapchemutwa, Anin and Keu of Keiyo North sub-county and Kabechei, Epke, Kocholwo and Turesia in Keiyo South.

“Each rainy season residents are asked to move to higher grounds, but that is not the lasting solution. The Government should adopt a land exchange programme and resettle all residents living in precarious areas, especially on the hanging escarpment, which has been declared unfit for human settlement,” said Keiyo South MP Jackson Kiptanui.

Face danger

Residents of several areas in Meru County are facing danger from the impending El Nino rains.

Tuesday, MCAs and residents were busy making plans to relocate from flood-prone areas, especially in the northern Meru, and regions bordering the Upper Mount Kenya forest.

Area MP David Kariithi was Tuesday mobilising National Youth Service personnel to dig trenches to drain massive amounts of water expected in the region.

In Kibirichia in Buuri sub-county, Kibirichia MCA Jacob Mwirigi also sent an SoS to the county and national governments to put preventive measures to avoid deaths and destruction of property.

In the hilly Igembe Central Sub-County, residents of Kangeta have appealed for construction of gabions along the crucial Kauma road.

In Nyando sub-county, the 1997 encounter with El Nino rains is still fresh in the mind of Hellen Achieng’.

“My first house was swept by the floods in 1997 and we had to stay at the neighbour’s place for five months before coming back to build another one. The second one was swept again after three years and we decided to relocate,” said Achieng’, a resident of Kolweny village in Kochieng’ East.

With talks of the impending El Nino rains, Achieng’ has vowed to leave her ailing husband and return to her parents’ home if the rains pour as anticipated.

Nyando is one of the areas which have been experiencing perennial floods.

And with the news of El Nino rains almost being a reality, hundreds of residents living along the shores of Lake Baringo and Bogoria are in a panic mood.

The Baringo county government has created a disaster response unit to help deal with the consequences of flooding.

Governor Benjamin Cheboi has warned those living in the low-land areas to remain alert during the rainy period.

He says rivers draining its waters into lakes Baringo and Bogoria are expected to burst.

Mr Cheboi said motor boats have been acquired to assist in rescue operations.