Panic as deep cracks emerge in Kerio Valley escarpment

An earth crack that emerged in a section of the sloppy Kerio escarpment. [Stephen Rutto/Standard]

Panic has gripped residents along the slopes of Kerio escarpment in Elgeyo Marakwet County as deep cracks that have recently triggered landslides emerge amid heavy rains.

The fissures have already caused an exodus of several families in Emsoo area on the shaky escarpment where it triggered landslides on Friday and Saturday last week.

Authorities said earth cracks have also been reported in Kapsegut, Kalwal, Ketigoi in Keiyo South sub-county where a ten-kilometre fissure emerged in 2018, as well as Kapchelaga and Sangurur areas in Marakwet West, cutting off access roads.

Landslides hit Kiphumwa, Liter and Chesegon areas on the border of Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties on April 18, killing 18 people and 17 others are still missing.

Emsoo location Chief Kipchumba Kurui said the landslide that rocked Kiptiot village happened on Thursday and Friday night, cutting off the Kapchelal-Kasubwo road.

Mr Kurui said 250 people are currently camping at a primary school following the two landslides. The Chief said 175 people are camping at Kipyeigor Primary school after they narrowly escaped death during the weekend landslides.

Elgeyo Marakwet deputy Governor Wisley Rotich said the landslide destroyed crops of unknown value. “Dangerous cracks have occurred in various parts of our county that include Anin in Keiyo North, Katilit in Marakwet East, Mugomet and Kapsegut in Keiyo South sub County. We urge those living in places prone to landslides to move to safer places to avert more danger,” Mr Rotich said.

 “We thank the local leadership for advising the people to move immediately the cracks are witnessed,” he added.

A resident, Anthony Chesire said the landslides destroyed several acres of maize, electricity polls and wrecked classroom rooftops at Kiptiot Primary School.

Mr Chesire said rumbling and shaking was heard before a huge section of land moved down the slopes.

“Luckily, it never buried houses. But it completely cut off the road linking Keiyo North and Marakwet West,” the resident said.

Elgeyo Marakwet County Commissioner Ahmed Omar said Chiefs have been instructed to ensure locals move out of areas where deep cracks have emerged to avert looming landslides.

Omar said the government has mapped out all areas at higher risk on the sloppy escarpment that stretches across Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot for action and delivery of relief food to affected families.

The commissioner reported that at least 250 families including those displaced by landslides on the Elgeyo Marakwet-West Pokot border and those living in high risk areas, have been ordered to leave their homes for safer grounds are living in selected evacuation centres.

He said 240 families from Elgeyo Marakwet have been listed for permanent resettlement in an ongoing exercise.

“About 250 displaced families are currently receiving food aid in camps. We have asked locals in high risk areas to move out. Others are living with relatives in safer areas,” Omar told The Standard.

County meteorological department officer Simon Cheptot said in a weather forecast reports that the rains will not end soon.

Mr Cheptot said the deluge will fall throughout this week and next week, warning that it may trigger run-offs in the escarpment.