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Residents use boats after Donyo Sabuk bridge collapsed

 For the past two weeks, residents of Kilimambogo in Kiambu County and their neighbors of Ol Donyo Sabuk in Machakos County have been unable to travel across the two counties after the bridge connecting the two areas counties was washed away by the swollen Athi River. [Gitau Wanyoike, Standard]

For more than a decade, residents of Kiambu and Machakos have been using the Athi River bridge in Donyo Sabuk to connect the two counties. 

But for the last one month, movement between the two counties has been paralysed after the bridge collapsed due to flash floods.

Those wishing to cross the river have to part with Sh200 to use a boat.

School-going children, traders, teachers, medical practitioners, and security officers among others have to use a boat to connect to the two counties.

A section of the 300-foot-long and 20-foot-wide bridge that has been left hanging in the middle of the river was built by Germans in the early 1950s.

Fed up with transport challenges, some of the residents from both counties on Sunday held prayers at the site hoping that their plight will reach relevant authorities.

Earlier the residents had raised funds to construct a makeshift bridge to ease movement.

Peter Njoroge, a community leader in Makutano, said the boat charges were exorbitant. Further, due to heavy rains upstream, it is extremely risky to use boats on the raging waters. 

“If one fails to use the boat, the alternative is to use the road from Donyo Sabuk to Tala, through Mwala, Ndiuni all the way Kithimani to connect to Thika-Garissa highway, a distance that costs about Sh700; this is hurting hustlers indeed," noted Njoroge.

Virginia Wambui, who lives in Maguguni in Kiambu county and commutes daily to Donyo Sabuk, lamented over the high cost of using boats and boda boda. She said if the government fails to offer a temporary solution, she will be forced to rent a house in Machakos County. 

“We cross over to deliver goods to wholesale and retail shops but for the last one month, we have been getting stranded every time we arrive at this bridge overrun by water. We can’t risk crossing anymore and we can't use those risky boats you see,” said James Thuo, a lorry driver. 

As a result of the transport challenges, prices of essential commodities have shot up after many shops have run out of stock that they source from Thika town. 

Reverend Michael Irungu a clergy at ACK in Donyo Sabuk blamed the area leadership of not presenting their plight to the relevant government agencies. 

“The community might be forced to stop giving levies to the two counties if action is not taken to reconstruct the bridge," said Irungu. 

Ol Donyo Sabuk National Reserve which is famous for more than 45 species of birds and receives numerous guests has not been spared either while tourists who hike Mt Kilimambogo can no longer access it after transport was cut off. 

“It’s 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,” said a boda boda rider who identified himself as Kamau. 

During an inspection tour of the bridge a fortnight ago, Thika Town MP, Alice Ng’ang’a, asked Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen to prioritise its repair.

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