Death and destruction in three Ukambani counties

First Lady Rachel Ruto and Machakos Governor Wavinya Ndeti in Athi River town on May 1, 2023. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

The heavy rains that have been characterised by flash floods have left a trail of destruction in Ukambani counties of Makueni, Machakos and Kitui.

In Makueni, 16 people have been killed, homes destroyed by mudslides and roads rendered impassable.

Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) Makueni branch officials, who are working with Makueni County Disaster Response Unit, said the most affected regions are in Mbitini and Wote Nziu wards, Mbooni (Tulimani), and Kaiti (Kilungu and Ilima).

“In some areas, there are houses that are completely destroyed while others have been swept away. Mbitini areas of Mutiswa, Mutyambua and Barazani are hard-hit. Across the entire county, about 404 households have been affected by the ongoing rains,” said Evans Peter, Makueni’s KRCS coordinator.

Along the Tawa-Mbumbuni road in Mbooni, transport has been paralysed since the onset of the rains as Kalingile drift was cut off.

The movement of goods and people to Machakos and Nairobi has been hindered for days.

“There is no connection now. The people coming from the lower side of Mbooni can’t easily access Machakos town and Nairobi,” said Mutindi Mutua, a businesswoman.

Urbanus Kyalo, the county disaster team lead, said that by Wednesday, more cases of houses collapsing due to landslides and mudslides were being reported in Kaiti areas of Kilungu and Mbooni.

Meanwhile, five people are still missing following last Friday’s tragic crossing at River Muatineni where travellers were swept away while attempting to cross the flooded river.

The burial arrangements of 10 people whose bodies were recovered are underway.

In Machakos County, grief engulfed Ngonda village on the outskirts of Tala town after a woman and her grandson were killed when the pit latrine they were repairing caved in yesterday and buried them.

Area MCA Jackson Ndaka said heavy rain the previous night had damaged the structure. The MCA said although the boy, who was in Grade Seven, was pulled out while unconscious, he was pronounced dead upon arrival at Kangundo Level 4 hospital where had been rushed for treatment.

The boy’s grandmother did not make it out alive. The bodies were removed to Kangundo Level 4 hospital mortuary.

In Kangundo West Ward, families living near Kwa Kyeti dam have urged the county government to re-route the dam’s spillway away from their homes, expressing fears of possible disaster.

Paul Mbiti, a resident, said the design of the dam, which was rehabilitated by the county government of Machakos last year, poses an imminent danger to nearby homes should the heavy rains continue.

“We are making this appeal in good time to the county government to treat this scenario as a matter of urgency because further delay might lead to casualties. The spillway of the dam is a ticking time bomb to nearby homes and should be redirected,” said Mbiti.

In Matungulu sub-county, dozens of homes were submerged by floods following a heavy downpour on Tuesday night. Matungulu West MCA, Raphael Nzau told The Standard that local authorities have been overwhelmed by the huge number of families who have been displaced.

“We have nowhere to take them. The numbers are alarming and we are currently exploring the logistics of how the displaced families can be hosted in a public facility such as a school or a church hall,” said Mr Nzau.

He said the most affected areas included Nguluni shopping center and its neighbourhood, Katangini, Masokani, Joska and Malaa.

The development came as First Lady Rachel Ruto visited flooding victims at Athi River Primary School and donated foodstuff to the families.

Machakos Governor, Wavinya Ndeti said at least 15,000 people have been affected by the flooding, with the number of those killed standing at 14 as at yesterday.

In the neighbouring Kitui County, Mwingi residents are still agonizing over the non-completion of River Enziu bridge, where over 30 people lost their lives after their bus was swept away by raging waters.

The killer river has burst its banks, thus paralyzing transport between the busy Nguni and Nuu markets.

-Reports by Stephen Nzioka, Erastus Mulwa and Phillip Muasya