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Villages mourn as 25 bodies are buried in separate ceremonies

By Irisheel Shanzu | December 13th 2019 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

A Catholic priest presides over the burial of three children from one family killed following deadly mudslides in West POkot County. [Irissheel Shanzu/Standard]

Grief engulfed Sondany and Muino locations yesterday as 25 victims of landslides and floods in West Pokot were buried.

Remains of the departed were ferried to the villages on Tuesday evening after an interdenominational requiem Mass held earlier at Makutano Stadium in Kapenguria.

Some family members were forced to sleep by the road side as heavy rains that continue to rock the region rendered roads impassable.

Vehicles carrying the caskets were stuck at Kamelei for several hours before the police intervened and mobilised support. They used their vehicles to pull them out of the mud.

Relatives going to the funerals said the roads were impassable, delaying movement and subsequent burial for the victims for hours.

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Bodies were yesterday interred in respective relatives’ and neighbours’ homes after community members refused suggestions to have them buried in a mass grave.

Homes buried

The homes of the victims were buried by landslides and survivors evacuated from affected areas following the November 23 incident.

Displaced members of families who are camping at Paroo, Parua and Nyarkulian primary schools attended the burials despite heavy rains that continued to pound the area for the better part of yesterday.

Kenya Red Cross officials were present to give moral and psycho-social support to relatives and help in burying the bodies.

It rained heavily at the burial sites as wooden coffins were lowered into the hurriedly dug graves. The digging was fast to avoid rain water filling the graves.

Pokot South MP David Pkosing, who attended the burials at Nyarkulian, urged residents to move to safer ground.

“We lost more than 52 people within three locations in just one night, close to 10,000 people from my constituency have been displaced. Some victims were buried immediately after the incident because their bodies could not be transported to the morgue after the region was cut off,” he said.

Mr Pkosing urged headteachers and principals not to send home learners affected by landslides when schools open in January.

“We have bursaries for the children who have been orphaned by the disaster and they should not be sent away from school because of fees problems. We will pay their fees,” said Pkosing.

Muino Location Chief Chesta Emanuel, who attended a burial of three children, said the government has plans to settle those affected, adding that new homes for the victims would be built.

“Community members agreed that all affected families would do their own funeral service and bury their loved ones since a joint Requiem Mass had been held the previous day,” said Mr Chesta.

Bad roads

He said that due to bad roads, some bodies arrived at around 2pm for burial.

“The villages are in interior places where there are no roads. Some relatives were forced to walk carrying the caskets to the burial sites,” he said.

Samuel Kapkama, who addressed mourners at Muino, is desperately searching for his relatives. He said they lost 21 people from the entire location and 16 are still missing.

“The government has given up searching for the bodies, we are filled with enormous pain, there are still bodies pinned under the ground,” he said.

He said they are shocked the government has not put in more effort in searching the bodies as it did during the Solai dam tragedy in Nakuru County.

“If only we could get the bodies of family members to bury we could be at peace knowing they are no more,” he said.

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