Mai Mahiu flood death toll hits 50, KDF on site

A car lodged in a tree in Kamucira village, Mai Mahiu. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard] 

The death toll from the Mai Mahiu flood tragedy rose to 50 yesterday after two more bodies were retrieved, authorities said.

It has also emerged that residents had been told about the looming danger posed by rising water in a blocked ravine hours before tragedy struck.

Through the local churches, the families had been warned that the water could spill over but many ignored the advice.

Hours later, a tunnel leaving out of the ravine caved in, and a wall of water and rocks swept away tens of people, livestock and personal effects in a tragedy described by victims as “a bad dream only recorded in a horror movie”.

At the Naivasha Sub-County Hospital, survivors narrated how the flood caught them unawares, killing their relatives and cutting short dreams in a matter of minutes.

Among the survivors is Peter Waweru who lost his wife and two children but escaped with a leg and hip fracture after being swept by the raging waters for over two kilometres.

Mr Waweru said that on Sunday, local churches warned worshippers about the pending danger posed by the body of water as heavy rains continued to pound the area.

“We were aware of the danger posed by the dam but our homes were very far from even the seasonal river. Many ignored the advice as we didn’t have anywhere to go,” he said.

The 54-year-old father of four narrated how the water caught them by surprise, adding that efforts to rescue his children were fruitless.

“In the process, I lost my wife and two children. One escaped unscathed and one was admitted to hospital with injuries,” he said.

In the female ward, Mary Muthoni, who lost eight members of her family, was in agony as she tried to come to terms with the early Monday incident.

She said that over 15 family members, including minors, had converged in her home in Ruiru village to raise funds for her son who is in remand over an assault case.

“After deliberations, we decided that those present should spend the night as it was late only for the flood to sweep everything, including my children and grandchildren,” she said before breaking down.

She said she managed to cling to a log before swimming to safety where members of the public rescued her and rushed her to hospital.

Another survivor, John Kinuthia, confirmed hearing news about the dangers posed by the dammed water from residents but ignored them as it was not official.

He added that those living downstream were kilometers away from the dam and it never occurred to them that they would be victims.

“I watched Naivasha East MCA warning of the dangers posed by the dam on television but since government officers had not warned us, we ignored the messages before tragedy struck,” he said.

Lydia Wangeci, who is nursing a fracture, said they had visited her sister and they were deep asleep when the incident occurred. “I tried to save one of my sister’s children but due to the raging waters we were separated. I got stuck between two boulders where I was rescued,” she said.

Speaking on phone, Kenya Red Cross Society manager Felix Maiyo said that one body and a head had been recovered as the search mission entered day three.

Maiyo confirmed the presence of KDF officers as promised by President William Ruto, noting that this would speed up recovery efforts.