Nairobi businesses shut, houses submerged as floods expose poor drainage

One of the residential houses that was submerged in flood water in Nairobi's Garden Estate after long night rains. [Nebert Saisi, Standard]

Businesses within Nairobi remained closed and some houses were submerged in water for the better part of Saturday as heavy rains pounded the city.

The downpour exposed the city's poor drainage system, raising questions over the county's preparedness in the run-up to the El-Nino rains despite spending millions of shillings.

In some cases, water ways were blocked by construction sites, redirecting floods to estates and causing extensive damage.

When the torrents stopped, Parklands, Garden Estate and other neighboring suburbs such as Kilimani, Lavington and sections of Nairobi West were flooded.

City roads were not spared either, leading to heavy traffic snarl-ups and in one of the city hospitals at Nairobi West, the raging waters displaced patients in some rooms.

Businesses were disrupted in Imara Daima, with traders counting losses after the roads leading to their stalls became impassable.

Residents along First Avenue in Parklands found themselves in an unprecedented encounter with floods, an occurrence they claim was a first.

The rising waters caused extensive damage to properties and disruption livelihoods throughout Friday and Saturday.

The escalating flood situation prompted concerns about the city's future vulnerability.

Mairura Omwenga, chairman of the Town and County Planners Association of Kenya (TCPAK), blamed poor planning.

"As the city grows, much of the open ground gets covered by buildings, roads, leaving less open area for rainwater, which causes surface runoff and thus more likelihood of floods," explains Omwenga.

He emphasised the need for investment in comprehensive drainage systems, maintenance and expansion.

On their part, the Nairobi County Disaster Management and Coordination team are assessing the extent of the impact of the flooding, in collaboration with the Red Cross.