Transport between Kiambu, Machakos paralysed as River Athi burst its banks

Residents stranded after River Athi burst its banks. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

Transport at the border of Kiambu and Machakos counties has been paralysed for days after River Athi burst its banks.

The river overran the main bridge at Donyo Sabuk, cutting off transport between the two counties.

Business people and motorists using the road to transport food items and construction materials, among other items, were stranded on both sides of the road.

The effects of the ongoing heavy rains have forced a section of the traders to shut down their businesses, while people who would have wished to travel to Thika town and villages within Machakos county have been forced to cancel their plans.

The Athi River flows across the Kapote and Athi plains, through Athi River town, taking a northeast direction where it meets the Nairobi River.

Near Thika, the river forms the Fourteen Falls and turns south-south-east under the wooded slopes of the Yatta ridge, which shuts in its basin on the east.

Residents led by Stephen Kamau and Nicholas Mutua a driver who has been using the route said that despite years of calling for a solution to the occurrence, nothing has been done to ensure they continue with their business during rainy seasons.

“It’ is not good that every time it rains heavily upstream this bridge is overrun and our businesses are affected, the government should construct a higher bridge to avoid this scenario,” Kamau said.

Commuters stranded after River Athi burst its banks rendering the road impassable. [Peterson Githaiga, Standard]

“We deliver goods for wholesale and retail shops at Ndonyo Sabuk, which is across the other side of the river but for the last three days, we have been turning back every time we reach here as the water has overrun the bridge. We can’t risk crossing as the lorry is very heavy and might be washed away by the raging waters,” said James Thuo a lorry driver.

And residents of Gichiiki village are stranded after floods marooned their homes and destroyed property and crops.

It has been a an exodus to higher grounds for the over 60 families once the heavens open and River Athi bursts its banks

The residents led by John Thuku who move to higher grounds during the rainy season said life has become unbearable and called on the government to relocate them to a safe area to avert deaths.

“I was born in 1974 here in Gichiiki and every time it rains heavily, especially in Nairobi we have to relocate to higher grounds, it’s painful that again I am now moving out with my kids as the river down here has broken its banks," said Thuku.

Mary Njeri Kamau, in her early 70s, lamented over the perennial exodus to higher ground to escape the wrath of Athi River.

"As the land adjacent to our homes, previously owned by Del Monte Kenya Ltd, now sits on higher ground, we kindly urge the Kiambu County Government to consider our needs as they plan its future utilization," Njeri said.

Gichiiki and Mukunike villages in Thika East were marooned by floods after River Athi burst its banks.

In 2019 when rains wreaked havoc in many parts of the country over 300 residents of Giciiki village in Kilimambogo, Thika East were displaced and forced to move to higher grounds.

Efforts to relocate the residents were mooted before the 2017 campaigns where some were issued with title deeds by president Uhuru Kenyatta to relocate to alternative land.

However, some of residents didn’t get land and were forced to remain in the area.

A screengrab of Kenya Red Cross staff rescuing families that had been left stranded in Joska, Matungulu Sub County in Machakos after River Athi burst its banks.

Elsewhere at Ngorongo village in Gatundu North, Kiambu County a family is counting losses after storm water flooded their house.

The family of Jane Wanjiru, a widow, was forced to sleep in a neighbour’s house while some of her children sought refuge at Kanjeri Police Station following the floods on Saturday night.

In Ruiru, Watalaam estate, locals resorted to unclog drainage to allow the free flow of water.

"Many of these issues cannot simply be blamed on natural occurrences; some are a result of our actions. Irresponsible behaviour and mismanagement of our environment play a significant role," said Nancy Kariuki.

The residents unclogged the drainage days after EAC, ASALs, and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Peninah Malonza warned Kenyans living in flood-prone areas to desist from acting in a manner that risks their lives.

Malonza said that most deaths and destruction witnessed during the heavy rains are a result of irresponsible behaviour among a section of Kenyans.