Private dam 'leaked' before it burst killing 48 in night horror

Patel Dam in Solai that killed 48 people. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Almost from the start, Patel Dam seemed prone to leaks, just small ones, nothing too serious. Even villagers in the farms downstream used to joke thus: "See you later if the dam doesn't break".
The da 200,000 cubic metre dam, located at the farm of  farmer Mansukul Patel in Solai, Kabazi Ward, is among seven the farmer has constructed to supply water for irrigation in  horticultural and livestock fconcern spanning decades.

Patel seems to have carefully chosen the location of the dam; it lies adjacent to River Kabazi - collecting water from the river and draining it to another dam next to Kamukunji trading centre.

Recently, residents claimed the dam sprang ominous new leaks, especially on the morning of May 9.

A worker at the farm told The Standard the owner inspected and declared the boulders and sand embarkments  stable.

But on Wednesday night at around 7:30pm, the dam shuddered and broke apart.

According to witnesses, a wall of the dam built on high ground plunged down the dark canyon, sweeping homes, cars, mud and huge rocks  towards sleeping villages.

The floodwaters and tumbling debris hit the Nyakinyua village at high speed washing away homes at the neighbouring Energy village in pith darkness.

Little is known about Patel, the owner of the dam that killed more than 48 people in Solai, Nakuru County on Wednesday night.

Nice, quiet man

Those who have interacted with him say he is reclusive, nice and quiet.

According to residents of Solai, access to the expansive farm is restricted.

“It is impossible to enter the farm without prior arrangements with the owner," said a former civil leader who lives in Nyakinyua village.

Although the Patel family has been involved in a number of community social responsibility activities, such as building a classroom at Solai Secondary School and equipping a maternity wing at a local health centre, theirs being private property, they have restricted access to the dams.

Veteran politician Koigi wa Wamwere, who represented the area, then Nakuru North Constituency, said he met a member of the Patel family some time back.

“I once met one of the Patels, a long time ago, when I was representing the area in Parliament. They were very reclusive people beside doing a few community social responsibility projects in the area".

Koigi said he had heard that the dam started showing cracks and was leaking before the disaster.

“I’m told some residents reported the issue to the management and also tried to prevail upon them to repair the dam. If this is true, then serious investigations should be done and the culprit made to take responsibility,” he said.

Not much is known about Mansukul Patel, but Koigi, too, describes him as a nice quiet man - aged between 50 and 60 - and who rarely interacted with locals.

The Patel farm or Mimet Solai, as the farm is known, has a horticulture section known as Solai Flowers and a coffee plantation. They are also involved in dairy farming.

One of the workers at the farm said visitors sometimes drop by on weekends for camping or meditation.

When The Standard team tried to access the farm yesterday, we were told to seek an appointment from the manager or the owner.

National Government officials and those of Nakuru County were cagey with information on the dam.

Dr Matiang’i, who arrived at the scene yesterday at 11am accompanied by his Devolution counterpart Eugene Wamalwa and Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, said investigation had been launched to establish why the dam collapsed and also establish the structural soundness of the remaining six.