Profits for divers taking locals across killer river

Local swimmers help pedestrians to cross River Muuoni in Makueni County. Each traveler pays between Sh50 and Sh 100 to cross. [John Muia, Standard]

Muuoni River in Makueni County was largely unknown until eight people coming from a thanksgiving ceremony in Nairobi were swept away by raging waters.

Since then, the river has been attracting rescuers and visitors, especially at the spot where the eight drowned while attempting to cross the swollen river last Thursday.

But now, local swimmers are making a kill helping desperate locals to cross the river at a fee. To access Sultan Hamud shopping centre and Kasikeu village, one has to cross the swollen river where swimmers are now on standby to assist those wishing to cross over to the other side.

“Wading through the fast-moving waters of river Muuoni is not easy. We have been encouraging people to seek our services when crossing the river because we are familiar with its drift,” said Thomas Muia, a swimmer.

Muia charges Sh50 for those known to him, while strangers part with Sh100 to be guided to the other side in the short, frightening crossing.

“There are many factors before agreeing to guide a client, and weight is key among them. Some people are too heavy such that if you accept to carry them you are likely not to make it to the other side,” says Muia about the challenges they encounter.

Nathaniel Nzioka, a swimmer who watched helplessly as the eight victims were swept away says their work goes beyond monetary gain.  

“We have saved the lives of many people. For instance, during the recent tragedy, we managed to pull out of the waters three people who were almost drowning,” said Nzioka.

He says they warned the eight against crossing but their pleas were ignored. Witnesses say the eight were swept away after stopping in the middle of the river.

“We tried to shout encouraging them to proceed, but they were too frightened to move and that is how they lost the fight,” said Nzioka.

Upendo Wambua lost two relatives in the tragedy - Mutune Nguku, a brother and Mwikali Ndung’a, a niece.

“Water keeps increasing due to the ongoing rains and that has hindered the search mission,” said Wambua.

During a funds drive at Wote, former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko accused governors of failing to utilise emergency kits.

“Governors should not expect the national government to channel funds every time we have disasters. They should use the money allocated for disasters, and should stop sideshows, blame game and crying like babies,” he said.

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