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Why Nakuru dwellers won't just move from a looming tragedy

Rift Valley
 A section of a house that collapsed due to fault lines that emerged at Kaptembwo Estate in Nakuru West following heavy rains on May 16, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

A few minutes after 4pm, Michael Bowen stood snapping photos of a menacing sinkhole located a few meters from a residential area in Kaptembwo.

As his lens captured the scene, the ground itself caved in, and a horrifying crack snaked its way through the earth, swallowing half a building.

But the true terror was not just the vanishing houses. It was the earth itself acting as a zipper, tearing a line across the landscape and dragging buildings down in its wake with the swiftness of a lightning strike.

“Tables and chairs were suddenly sinking into the crack, leaving half of the house standing on the edge. A dog that must have been in one of the sunken rooms was howling inside the crack. It looked like a dream,” Bowen said.

While Bowen grappled with the shock, Richard Mushioli faced a different terror within his own home. Water was bubbling up from a hole in the floor, flooding the house.

"It was scary. Water was bubbling out and flooding the entire house," Mushioli said.

But this internal eruption was a mere symptom of the chaos unfolding outside, houses were vanishing into the earth.

"We could only see the crack dragging houses down with the same speed as a lightning strike," Mushioli added.

Since the incident happened almost a week ago, vacation notices have been given to the affected families who live along what geologists say are fault lines. A fault line is a line on the ground or underneath formed as a result of volcanic activities.

So far, several families whose houses were affected by the huge cracks have since vacated the rental premises. Many others, however, are still hanging on the edge despite the dangers posed by the cracks.

Triza Kitaka, a resident, says lack of finances to relocate to safer places remains the biggest challenge.

“It is scary because we live just a few meters from the crack and we have been advised to move. It is, however, a very expensive venture to move out now even if we needed to,” Kitaka said.

For one to secure a safer space, she says, it requires almost two month’s rent in advance.

“I went around looking for a vacant house in a safer place but I cannot move in until I pay,” she says.

When the incident occurred, close to 300 families who were affected sought refuge in churches and schools around. A spot check by The Standard revealed that most of them have since moved out.

Shadrack Michache, the chairman of the Council of Elders within the Technology sub-location estimated that seven plots have since sunk and the area is not safe following the ongoing rains.

The elders have since written to the county government explaining the sorry state of drainage within the area and that there was need to urgently construct larger drainage systems and maintain them.

“Geologists have already told us where the problem is and we have written to the county government to treat this as a matter of urgency before disaster strikes. We have requested for the county to work on proper drainage to reduce the intensity of stormwater,” Michache said.

Enock Kipseba, the acting director, Geological Surveys at the State Department of Mining says Nakuru is one of the hotspot zones that have been affected by geological calamities. People living along the fault lines, he says, are currently at risk and should be evacuated.

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