Residents fault State over delay in rescue after deadly landslides

Deputy President William Ruto comforts a victim of the landslide at the Kapenguria County Hospital. [DPPS]

Relatives of victims of the Friday night deadly landslides in West Pokot were unable to get government emergency rescue nearly 12 hours after the tragedy, with some resorting to digging out their loved ones with bare hands.

Residents of the three villages of Nyarkulian, Parua, and Muino who bore the brunt of mudslides triggered by heavy rains also said they were yet to receive basic amenities since roads were yet to be opened up to ease transportation of food and warm clothes.

Philip Katina, a resident of Sebit, said the national and county governments had failed to adequately respond to their cries for help.

“It’s shameful that it took Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago to dispatch some machines from the neighbouring county to come and open Sebit-Ortum road that had been rendered impassable for 36 hours,” Mr Karina said.

He added that the deadly landslide has exposed the slow government response and lack of disaster preparedness.

Pius Lokeris, a resident of Ortum, lamented the poor level of disaster preparedness by the Pokot County Government.

“We didn’t expect such numbers of deaths from our peaceful villages. Victims should be compensated and the next generation will be safer if we plant more trees,” he said.

Standard Group journalists and those from other media houses accessed the area by motor vehicles and at some point, walking to reach the scene of one of the country’s worst natural disasters.

Yesterday, top government officials, led by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, who were heading to Kapenguria in West Pokot, were forced to land in Eldoret and after a brief meeting, flew back to Nairobi.

Dr Matiang’i and his Devolution counterpart Eugene Wamalwa cut short their trip to the disaster-hit area over what they termed poor weather conditions.

The CSs, accompanied by top police chiefs led by Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai, were heading to Kapenguria to receive briefs about the disaster from security officials.

Later in the afternoon, Deputy President William Ruto landed in Kapenguria town, about 50km from the scene of deadly landslides, the same area where Matiang’i was scheduled to land.

While speaking in Kapenguria County Hospital, Dr Ruto sought to assure residents affected by the deadly landslide of government support.

Ruto, who visited survivors affected by landslides at Kapenguria County Hospital, said it was sad for the country to lose lives. He said the government would do all it can to mitigate the situation.

The DP landed at the AP grounds in Kapenguria accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and Pokot South MP David Pkosing, catching locals by surprise.

“It’s a disaster that has never occurred in the country and it’s shocking to hear tens of lives were claimed within hours,” said Ruto.

He added: “We have supplied enough drugs and doctors from Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital will work together with county doctors to help the victims in the remote areas. Those in places where vehicles cannot reach will also get services because the government will use helicopters to reach them.”

Facilitate operations

He added that a helicopter would be stationed in Kapenguria to facilitate rescue operations.

In Eldoret, Matiang’i and his entourage landed a few minutes to 10am in three choppers, but later left for Nairobi at 12:40pm.

The two CSs declined to speak to The Standard and KTN crew, only saying the team was advised to suspend the trip and that they would return to West Pokot when the weather is favourable for helicopter flights.

Matiang’i, who flew back to Nairobi after an aborted trip to Kapenguria and Sigor, asked those in parts of Murang’a, Nyeri, Taita Taveta and Machakos to be on alert.

The CS also sought to reassure the West Pokot County leadership that the national government was committed to addressing the challenges the people were facing due to the mudslides.

“We have sent some relief supply ahead. I know that because the roads are very difficult to navigate at this time, some of the food and items like blankets may be late to arrive… but we dispatched some food both from Eldoret and Nairobi,” he added.

Affected areas

Mr Wamalwa stated that items that had since been dispatched to the affected areas included food and non-food items such as blankets, mattresses, tents and mosquito nets.

“As we speak, all our PSs (Principal Secretaries) and our national teams are on the ground working with the county teams and Red Cross and all agencies around the clock to support the affected families,” he added.

Mr Mutyambai said all resources in the security department, including trucks, had been deployed to the area to aid in moving affected families.

Mr Pkosing faulted State officials for failing to make the trip to the scene of the disaster.