15 dead as flash floods devastate Narok town
By Robert Kiplagat and Charles Ngeno | April 29th 2015
More than 15 bodies were recovered and several people were reported missing after floods swamped Narok town on Tuesday night.
Another eight people were admitted to Narok County Referral Hospital with injuries.
Motorists using the Bomet-Narok-Mai Mahiu road were Wednesday advised to drive with caution as Narok Governor Samuel Tunai and other local leaders joined the search and rescue mission in flooded sections of the town.
Grief-stricken residents were counting losses Wednesday after buildings collapsed, household goods were destroyed and vehicles swept away by the raging floods that rose by the minute as the night progressed.
Families were seen wading through the storm water, heading to flooded buildings to try and locate their loved ones.
Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) set up an information centre at Narok Police Station to record the missing persons.
The floods made a four-storey building within the central business district that was under construction to collapse.
KRCS workers were seen trying to get to the collapsed building in a bid to rescue construction workers who were suspected to have been inside the building.
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Damaged vehicles, some of them toppled by furious waters, littered the roadside, while others were swept away into the swollen Enkare-Narok river.
Highways leading to the town were inaccessible, with mud and household goods washed to the streets by the floods blocking sections of the roads.
Damaged furniture and other household goods were scattered in the streets, while garbage gave the roads a new, ugly layer.
Residents said the rains started at around 6.30pm and in half an hour’s time, the town, which is located in a valley, had started flooding.
“Within 30 minutes a number of shops within the central business district had already flooded and household goods were floating in the streets,” said Peter ole Nchoe.
Isaac Kuria, a taxi driver, said he was waiting for a customer near Hass petrol station less than 100 metres from Enkare River, when he heard the sound of gushing water. He started his car in a bid to escape, but was not lucky.
In less than two minutes, his car was covered by flood water but swam to safety and was assisted by friends. His car was badly damaged.
“I am lucky to be alive. It’s a miracle as I saw many vehicles and motorbikes that had been parked being swept away. It was hell,” said a teary Kuria.
Another survivor, Kenneth Basiany, an electronic goods trader, said: “When the rains started, we locked ourselves inside my kiosk and soon the water forced the door open and we had to climb to the counter but the water level rose and submerged it. Realising that, we climbed to the roof as we screamed for help,” said Basiany.
According to Jefitha Basweti, a relative to one of the deceased, most of those who were killed in the floods had taken shelter in their vehicles.
“I have lost a cousin who was in his vehicle.This morning his body was found trapped inside the vehicle several metres downstream,” he said.
Margaret Akinyi said she had not found her husband, a mechanic in one of the garages that was affected by the floods.
“I have been to the mortuary but I have not seen or received any information about his whereabouts. His phone has been off since last evening when the floods hit the ground,” said Akinyi.
As early as 5am, the local police, the county disaster team, KRCS and residents were combing river banks for bodies and property.
Governor Tunai, who supervised the recovery and search operation said his government would pull down all structures and buildings erected along waterways and drainages.
“I am deeply saddened about the storm water tragedy that has claimed lives of more than 15 people. This is the worst tragedy in the wake of the pounding rains that will forever scar our memories,” said Tunai in the statement.
Tunai said rescue teams had been dispatched and emergency response operations were under way.
“It is unfortunate, but my plan to move Narok town to Limanet area, a safer ground away from an area prone to floods, was fought off by my opponents last year. I hope the needless loss of lives and property will make them rethink their stand. At all times, leaders need to think about the safety of those they lead,” Tunai said.
He observed that the floods caused a big loss to the business community, students, commuters and all the residents of the county.
The governor said his goverment would do everything possible to prevent further loss of lives.
“Acceleration and re-engineering of the storm water drainage management system is going to be handled as a matter of urgency,” he said.
The governor further called on all the residents of Narok, the national government and other partners to help the county “in this challenging time” and to avert recurrence of a similar incident in the future. According to area Deputy OCPD Paul Cheruiyot, the floods destroyed 22 vehicles. He could not, however, immediately state the number of people who lost their lives.
“We cannot say at the moment exactly how many people have died because a number of people have been reported missing,” he said.
Businesspeople also incurred huge losses.
Nakuru Region Coopers Ltd branch manager Josphat Kirui said their distributor in the town, Farmer World, lost goods valued at Sh6 million.
“Wing investors lost property and it’s a huge loss as we have not been in business. We are however appealing to the county government to consider compensating investors and businesspeople as they were the worst affected,” said Kirui.
Ali Juma, the County KRCS Co-ordinator, told residents to report their missing relatives and lost property to the registration desk.
He told residents to call the hotline number 0715820219 if they had any information about the missing people.
“We have mobilised NYS officers, divers, disaster management officers and the police to assist in searching for the missing bodies along the river and in the debris of the collapsed building,” said Juma.
Area County commissioner Arthur Osiya cautioned those with businesses in the flood-prone parts of the town to vacate to avoid such losses in future, until proper measures are taken to avert floods.
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