Families marooned by floods as motorists spend hours on damaged roads

River Nyando burst its banks following heavy rains. [Clinton Ambujo, Standard]

Hundreds of Kenyans are marooned in their homes as rivers burst banks due to the heavy rains pounding the country.

From the Coast to Nyanza, several families have been rendered homeless by devastating floods forcing county governments and churches to move in to assist victims.

In Kisumu county, River Nyando burst its banks following heavy rains in Nandi, Kericho and Nyamira counties.

More than 600 people are marooned in their homes, while business premises and health facilities have been damaged by floods.

The backflow from Lake Victoria has further worsened the situation.

Transport along the Kisumu-Nairobi highway was disrupted for several hours after floods rendered the Ahero bridge impassable.

Joseph Okello, a resident, said that they spent the night in the cold.

"I live in a rented house at Ahero market and we were all forced out after water levels rose," he said.

Caroline Ouma was woken up by neighbours screams in the wee hours of the morning only to find her house marooned in water.

Ms Ouma decided to first rescue her six children before salvaging a few household items.

"I have seen floods in the past but never like this. All my property has been destroyed by the floods and I have no one to run to for help," she said.

Michael Otieno a trader said his shop was destroyed by the floods.

"Even if I wanted to start afresh, it is pointless as the rain would still destroy everything if it doesn't stop," said Otieno.

Agnes Akinyi, who lives next to Ahero market, said she moved her children to a safer area after her home and property were destroyed by the floods.

Residents of Kadibo sub-county, Kabonyo Kanyagwal were rescued by boats.

Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o said the flooding has damages the Ahero bridge on the busy Kisumu-Nairobi-Kisii-Homa Bay and Migori highway, disrupting transportation.

The entire Ahero fown is flooded, paralysing business.

"Several Health facilities, including the Ahero sub-county hospital, have been flooded with wards and offices adversely affected," said Prof Nyong'o.

Families are stranded after seven villages in Ombeyi location were submerged.

Nyong'o said the Homa lime bridge in Muhoroni sub-county has collapsed, leaving Muhoroni town flooded.

"Most parts of Muhoroni and Nyakach are cut-off from the rest of the county due to the floods," he said.

The governor regretted that many roads have been rendered impassable, making it difficult to distribute food and evacuate the victims.

Kabonyo Kanyagwal, Ombaka and Sango Rota areas are adversely affected by the backflow from Lake Victoria.

The Kisumu county and national government are working through the multi-agency committee to help evacuate locals.

The governor has commended the Coast Guard and the Kenya Red Cross Society for rescuing families in Ahero.

The county government plans to hire boats to ferry affected households to evacuation centres.

"In addition to the Sh4.8 million worth of food and non-food items we distributed last week, we are making fresh efforts to distribute more food to the affected families," Nyong'o said in the statement.

He said the county has appealed to the state departments with helicopters, including the KDF, Kenya Wildlife Services, and Kenya Forest Service, to intervene and help rescue the affected people.

A medical camp has been set up at Bunde dispensary.

People living along Miriu and other rivers, including near Lake Victoria, have been urged to move to higher ground.

In West Pokot, authorities have moved in to dispel fears over the rising water levels at Turkwel Dam.

They assured that the dam was stable and safe and cautioned the public against crossing swollen rivers.

West Pokot Sub County Deputy County Commissioner Wycliffe Munanda and Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) Managing Director Sammy Naporos inspected Turkwel Dam.

They said the dam's structural integrity remains intact, and the current water level is still low, allaying concerns over risk of spilling.

"The water in the dam is not at an alarming rate, with the current level at 1,135 meters above sea level, leaving 15 meters before the dam spills or overflows," said Naporos.

The KVDA boss emphasized the need for caution, especially for residents living in lowland areas that are prone to flooding, as several rivers, including Muruny, Weiwei, and Lomut, flow towards Lake Turkana, potentially causing flooding.

"No one should cross or drive across swollen rivers, which might cause loss of life and property," said Naporos.

In response to the heightened risk posed by strong waves, he suspended fishing activities in the 60-kilometer square Turkwel Dam.

The Deputy County Commissioner, assured of enforcement of laws against fishing during strong winds and pledged police presence at the dam for the safety of residents and the enforcement of evacuation procedures.

"While there are no dams in West Pokot county overflowing or at alarm stage, some rivers are swollen, displacing several people," Munanda said.

CEC Disaster Management Martin Lotee warned that some parts of the county are at risk of landslides.

"The county administration is doing its best to help those affected by floods. Some have been hospitalized, and in Kopro location, some livestock were killed by landslides, and human beings were injured," he said.

John Longiroi, a fisherman, expressed difficulties faced due to strong waves, saying: "We had fears because of the calamities being reported in other parts of the country due to heavy rainfall pounding the country."

Mark Choge, another resident, said some people had decided to move to safer areas due to rising water levels in rivers.

In Uasin Gishu county, long-distance drivers called on the government to act swiftly and repair damaged roads.

The drivers who ply the Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret highway ferrying goods to the Eastern African region said they encounter difficulties whenever transport is interrupted due to damage on sections of the highway.

Their calls followed the destruction of the road at Timbaroa junction that caused a traffic snarl-up stretching several kilometres and holding transit goods for about two days.

The long-distance truck drivers and their turnboys said the closure of the Nakuru-Eldoret road by Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) had not only inconvenienced them but also exposed them to huge economic losses because they bought food at high prices from traders. 

The truck drivers led by David Mwangi, Edwin Kptoo and Maseneri Sifuna urged the government to urgently repair roads to minimise loss of time and huge expenses on the operators.

“We are not safe whenever we get stranded for hours. It is risky staying by the roadside in a bushy area with no shops. We incur huge expenses whenever there is a delay in rehabilitation of a destroyed section of the road like at Timboroa," said Kiptoo.

“We appreciate steps taken by the KeNHA after realising the rains had damaged the section of the road and noticing signs of potential collapsing of the road on time. But they should also have considered that our lives are in danger and speed up the repairs," he added.

- Additional reporting by Irishsheel Shanzu, Peter Ochieng, Patrick Beja and George Sayagie