Cost of heavy rains as Kenyans disobey orders to leave danger zones

An excavator clears boulders and deluge along Iten-Kabarnet road following mudslides. [Duncan Ocholla and Fred Kibor, Standard]

More deaths and destruction have been reported across the country following the heavy rains. At the same time, 22 counties have been placed under floods watch.

Two pupils were yesterday killed by floods, adding to the death toll estimated at over 186, according to aid workers.

At least another 291,566 people have been displaced across the country.

A Standard Six pupil died in Keiyo escarpment, while a Standard Eight pupil drowned in Ndaragwa in Nyandarua County.

In the Elgeyo Marakwet case, walls of a house collapsed on a minor in Kamogich as she slept.

Keiyo North Deputy County Commissioner Joseph Chepkwony said the girl died while being taken to Iten county referral hospital.

“Earth cracks have emerged in the area. Other areas have sunk and there are fears of a landslide,” said Mr Chepkwony.

“Chiefs and administration police officers have been ordered to evacuate residents living in areas at risk of landslides and mudslides,” he added.

In Ndaragwa, the Iria-Ini Primary School pupil was swept away by floods flowing into Lake Ol Bollosat.

Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) has mapped out 22 counties that are likely to experience heavy flooding with an advisory for residents to move to higher grounds.

Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu, Mandera, West-Pokot, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Trans-Nzoia, Nandi, Baringo, Nakuru, Kericho and Bomet are affected.

Others are Kakamega, Vihiga, Kisii, Nyamira, Laikipia, Kiambu, Murang'a and Nyeri.

A Government report shows that roads have been cut off in Garissa, Isiolo, Kisumu, Mandera, Marsabit, Nakuru, Tana-River, Turkana and Wajir counties.

The mMinistry of Transport and Infrastructure estimates that it will need at least Sh18 billion to repair roads and bridges that have been damaged by floods.

Transport CS James Macharia has estimated the damage to the infrastructure at Sh18.7 billion. 

"Roads under the Kenya Rural Roads Authority have borne the brunt as damage caused is in excess of Sh13 billion, while those in urban areas are estimated at Sh4.5 billion," Macharia said.  

He added: “Bridges and major roads have been destroyed following heavy rains, but the Government has allocated money to support rehabilitation,” said Macharia.

Risk of collapse

Parts of Kangema-Kiriaini road are at risk of collapse after huge cracks emerged near Kanjama market, while the Nanyuki–Doldol road has caved in at Twala and near Doldol Town. Chanagande-Chalani-Mtsengo Road in Kaloleni, Kilifi County, is also damaged.

The tarmac on the Kiriaini-Kangema road is falling apart, and heavy vehicles have been diverted to other routes to avoid extending the damage.

KRCS has reported that Tana River and Kilifi counties are among the worst hit, with 115 camps for the displaced.

The Kenya Meteorological Services says rains are expected to continue until the end of May, when up to 40 counties are likely to be affected. 

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned of major health risks.

Already, cases of cholera have been reported in Kiambu and Kerio-Valley, and if poorly managed could blow up into an epidemic. 

Since the beginning of 2018, cholera has been reported in 15 counties. A total 2,943 cholera cases, including 55 deaths, had been reported by the end of April.

According to a report, the Ministry of Health has reported circulation of polio virus. However, the planned measles vaccination in Wajir, Mandera and Garissa may be affected due to inaccessibility caused by the floods.

There are reports of pit latrines overflowing and people lacking access to sanitation facilities.  

The impact of floods has compounded livelihoods, which had been shocked by two consecutive years of severe drought. This may increase vulnerability in the affected communities, particularly in Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Turkana, Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Isiolo and Garissa.

National Disaster Management Unit (NDMU) deputy director Pius Masai said National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) was coordinating preparedness and mitigation to address the impact of floods.

“We are on high alert. The disaster committees at the counties are working with the National Disaster Management Centre in planning on how to mitigate the effects of floods in affected regions. The committees should be able to identify areas that are vulnerable to drought for quick responses,” Masai said.

In Kirinyaga, heavy rains have affected the agricultural sector with flood waters affecting even research stations.

Fish fingerlings worth thousands of shillings at the Kenya Marine and Fish Research Institute in Sagana were washed away by floods. Some had already matured for distribution.

Yesterday, contractors were busy repairing a section of the Meru–Nairobi highway, which had also cracked.

There is a more imminent threat of landslides, especially in high risk areas in Meru, Kirinyaga, Tharaka Nithi, Nyeri, Embu and Murang’a counties, where residents have chosen to stay put despite the risks.

Five people have been killed by landslides in Murang’a, where efforts to relocate residents have not borne fruit, as some families in the danger zones choose to stay put.

Kiriko village in Kahuro has been listed among the landslide prone areas in the past the 10 years.

A visit to the village reveals visible cracks. Wells have also sprung up, but residents are not bothered and have continued defying orders to leave.

Only a few of the 36 families advised to relocate have heeded the call. However, some of them sneak back at night and sleep in their houses.

Early this month, majority residents of the village were among the hundreds who walked to Inoi village, where a mudslide killed a family of four and destroyed tea and coffee farms.

By Monday, several residents confirmed they would not leave, claiming that they had lived with the cracks for ages.

Maina Makutano, a resident, said chiefs had not held any meeting with the locals to educate them on dangers posed by the cracks.

“There are life threatening cracks, but the residents are yet to receive written notification to vacate the village,” said Makutano.

The cracks widened in September 2013 following heavy rains. Experts who investigated the cracks recommended demolition of some houses.

Mr Daniel Maina said many of the families relocate by day. They return in the dark of the night for fear of being arrested by police for living in risky grounds.

Maina said the locals had refused to vacate the village despite emergence of wells after soils were saturated with water.

Mugoiri Assistant County Commissioner Vincent Kirui said people in many parts had obeyed orders to vacate danger zones.

And there is a risk of an impending shortage of rice - which could affect the prices - after canals that supply water to the Mwea Irrigation Scheme got extensively damaged.

As a result, farmers have delayed their planting for more than a month. 

The risk of disease is especially greater in schools where latrines have been submerged or collapsed and the sewage is overflowing into inhabited areas.

In Kakamega, Vuyika Primary School in Lugari Constituency is facing closure over lack of classrooms and pit latrines.

Computer laboratory

This is after eight classrooms, computer laboratory, library and food store had their roofs blown off by strong winds accompanying the heavy rains.

The school has a population of 720 pupils. Its management said property valued at Sh2 million was destroyed.

Another six classrooms have been condemned and declared unsafe by officials from the public health department.

The school head teacher, Lydia Mulongo, said pupils are now forced to learn under the trees.

“Lessons were on when the rains, accompanied by thunderstorm, started. The roofs were carried away by strong winds but we thank God both pupils and teachers were unhurt,” said Ms Mulongo.

"The situation is bad when it starts raining. We are forced to send pupils in lower primary home and create room for the remaining in the staff room and the two classrooms."

Matete sub-county Public Health Officer Harris Kencey said they would close the school on expiry of a notice given if action will not be taken.

“We will obtain a court order and close the school indefinitely. The safety of the pupils is what we are prioritising,“ said Kencey.

He ordered that buildings that were condemned be demolished immediately. If closed, it will be the third school suffering such a plight in the constituency.

Lumakanda Township Primary School was closed indefinitely after toilets collapsed and its 1,500 pupils sent home.

Area health officer Sheila Kiptun said they closed the school to prevent outbreak of water-borne diseases.

"It will be reopened after meeting all the demands made by my office," she said. The school must put up 56 new toilets before pupils are recalled.

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