Emergency team issues landslides alert in Elgeyo Marakwet

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wisley Rotich (center) with stakeholders during the launch of the county's emergency response plan on November 20, 2023. [Stephen Rutto, Standard]

Residents in landslide-prone areas of Elgeyo Marakwet escarpment have been asked to exercise caution due to heavy rains.

The county disaster preparedness and response team identified Mung’wa, Chesegon, Tuturung, Arror, Kamoi, Turesia, Simit and Kamoi as areas at risk of landslides and mudslides. The multi-agency team said that two people died yesterday after being swept away by flash floods.

The response team includes officials from the county administration, the national government, and the Kenya Red Cross Society.

Governor Wisley Rotich, who spoke during the launch of an El Nino preparedness and contingency plan Monday, said that two other people were swept away by floods in the last month.

Mr Rotich said that a mapping exercise by the emergency response team identified 3,500 households in 37 villages that were at risk in landslide-prone areas.

“We are issuing a warning to residents. We have had challenges from heavy rains in the past and we understand the damage. We are now more coordinated to respond to emergencies,” he said. 

“We have also received reports of 38 livestock buried alive after mudslides,” he added.

At least five cases of mudslides and swelling of rivers have been reported since the beginning of the month.

Rotich said that community health teams had been equipped to respond to waterborne diseases.

He assured that a geographic information system had been deployed for real-time sharing of data.

Keiyo North Deputy County Commissioner Julius Maiyo said chiefs and their assistants were on high alert in case of emergencies.

Red Cross representative Abraham Cheruiyot said the emergency team would be guided by the measures unveiled on Monday.

“All the responses in the past few weeks are related to the ongoing rains,” he said.

Last week, Elgeyo Marakwet Environment Executive Jason Lagat said avocado and mango trees would be planted on the escarpment to reduce incidents of landslides.

Mr Lagat noted that coffee bushes could also mitigate risks.

A mudslide in Tuturung sub-location, Marakwet East, claimed the lives of four family members in October 2019.

In May 2010, a landslide in Kitony village, Marakwet East, buried over 14 people alive. Two years later, another rain-related tragedy struck parts of Simit, Toroplongon, Kaptarkom, and Kapsokom along the escarpment.

The worst tragedy occurred in April 2020 when flash floods and mudslides in Chesegon, along the border of Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot, led to the death of 15 people, with 22 others reported missing.