Kenya faces devastating losses as heavy rains trigger widespread flooding

Flood situation around General Motors bus stop. [Nerber Silasia, Standard]

Kenya is facing significant losses as heavy rains, reaching up to 200 mm a day, continue to inundate the country, leading to widespread flooding that has killed at least 188 people and displaced tens of thousands more.

The impact of the rains extends across various sectors, affecting everyone from small-scale traders to major businesses. The Kenyan capital of Nairobi has been particularly hard hit, with many once-thriving businesses now left in ruins due to flooding.

In Mbagathi, some 12 km from Nairobi, a once-busy fuel station remained underwater for the second day on Thursday. The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) has directed affected fuel stations to remain closed until they can ensure the safety and quality of their products.

"Any fuel station that is flooded should remain closed and monitored. Operators should assess the situation, clean up, and ensure the quality of their products before reopening," the EPRA said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that fuel station operators should anticipate and mitigate any environmental impact their businesses may cause due to the flooding.

The floods have also disrupted the operations of industries, such as the Karatasi paper factory in Nairobi Industrial Area, which was flooded, forcing workers to be stranded for hours and the factory to close indefinitely.

In the transportation sector, commuter buses, known as matatus, are facing losses due to impassable roads, increased maintenance costs and reduced passenger numbers. Many roads in Nairobi have been closed, including major routes like the Thika Superhighway, Kangundo Road and Namanga Road.

"I really hope the rain will end soon. It is bad for business. Before the rains, we would make at least 12,000 shillings (about 89 U.S. dollars) a day after deducting our expenses, but even collecting 59 dollars now is a challenge," said John Kariuki, a matatu driver.

As floods continue to affect homes and residential areas, families are grappling with the loss of household items and the need to find new accommodations.

"All my household items were destroyed when my house was flooded. I will also have to rebuild my fence and repair the house and some structures in my compound. For now, I am happy that we are safe as a family," said Jared Kuya, a resident of Kitengela, located 30 km south of Nairobi.

Many landlords are also facing challenges as tenants move away from flood-prone areas, leaving behind empty houses.

"We were 20 families at the flat where we were staying in Utawala, each paying 222 dollars. Three-quarters of us have moved due to floods," said government worker Rose Okoth.

More than 200,000 people across Kenya have been displaced from their homes by floodwaters, seeking shelter in schools, churches and other public facilities.

The tourism sector is also feeling the impact, with game parks, tourist camps and reserves being flooded. Masai Mara National Reserve, a popular destination for tourists, has been temporarily closed after the Talek River burst its banks on Wednesday.

The rains have also caused significant damage to critical infrastructure, including roads, schools and bridges, cutting off access to many areas.

Despite the challenges, the government remains committed to addressing the situation. Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has announced funds for the construction of bridges and roads destroyed by the floods.

The forecast from the Kenya Meteorological Department and the Climate Prediction and Applications Center of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development indicates that the rains are expected to continue until July, with most parts of the country likely to experience near-average to above-average rainfall.