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Life grinds to a halt as residents grapple with the aftermath of Solai dam tragedy

By Julius Chepkwony and Mercy Kahenda | Published Mon, May 14th 2018 at 00:00, Updated May 13th 2018 at 22:18 GMT +3
Shops stayed closed at Solai trading centre yesterday. Normalcy is yet to return four days after the Patel Dam tragedy that killed 45 people, injured scores and destroyed property. [Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

Operations at Energy and Nyakinywa villages that were affected when a dam burst in Solai, Nakuru County, are yet to return to normal.

The two centres that were once lively with thriving businesses are now deserted, and only debris of what used to be houses can be spotted scattered.

An air of grief welcomes visitors to the area where more than 45 people were killed on Wednesday night.

Solai shopping centre can be traced, with few business premises that stood the wrath of the waters remaining closed. Joseph Masaba, a business operator, told The Standard he has incurred huge losses since the tragedy.

Mr Masaba said some of his clients died in the tragedy and that it would be difficult for the business to get back to its feet. “Operations here have not resumed. We are mourning those who died and it is sad that I lost tens of clients,” he said.

Masaba said most premises and items at the centre were also destroyed, causing operators to lose millions of shillings. “Look, there used to be permanent structures on this land that has been left bare. Millions of stock was also swept away by waters,” he said.

The trader said he escaped death by a whisker.

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Some business premises that stood along the water way were swept, leaving only slabs.

Masaba said they will be forced to construct other buildings and are awaiting direction from the Government.

He called on the Government to help them get back on their feet. “The State should reconsider settling those affected to enable them continue with their lives,” he said.

The Standard caught up with Peter Mwangi, another businessman whose retail shop survived the waves.

Though he had opened the business yesterday, only a few people visited his shop.

Mwangi says hat though his shop and items were not swept away, his other premises housing a pool table, welding machine and tailoring shop was destroyed.

Stanley Gathua, who owned a shoes shop, said a building that housed his business was swept away.

Selina Nabei, 72, asked the Government to help locals get back to their normal lives.

“Students need to go back to school, we need locals to open their business and farm,” said Ms Nabei.

Nabei said she lost her good friend and neighbour, Mama Wangui, in the tragedy.

The granny said she had lived in Solai since 1992 and last Wednesday's tragedy left residents traumatised. “I have never seen such an occurrence. Was this a satanic act or what? Look, an entire village where I have lived and seen people interact has been made bare,” she said.

At the centre, there is a petrol station that looks abandoned. The facility was a source of fuel, especially for motorcycle operators.

According to Stanly Gathua, a business operator, the station is not operational after electricity was disconnected.

Mr Gathua said during the incident, electricity poles and cables were destroyed. The operator said he was in his shop with a client when the destructive water forced its way in.

“I'm lucky to have survived, I was selling items to a client when water swept through the area. We both ran, but but unfortunately she (customer) was swept away and died,” he said.

Learning has also been paralysed in several schools. Some of those affected are Nyakinywa Primary, Endao and Patel Day Secondary, Jamhuri and Solai Boys Secondary schools.

Solai Boys High School is acting as a rescue centre for families that were affected.

Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Mwongo Chimwanga says plans are underway to ensure learning resumes.


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