4 May 2006

Kenya: Floods Displace Thousands As Torrential Rains Persist

Nairobi — Flooding caused by heavy rainfall in Kenya has displaced thousands, submerged homes and killed several people in various parts of the country during the past week, officials said on Thursday.

The worst-affected areas were the Indian Ocean coastal region and Nyanza and Western provinces, according to Shem Amadi, director of the National Disaster Operations Centre in Nairobi, the capital. He said the government, as well as the Kenya Red Cross Society, were distributing food, shelter material and nonfood relief items to those in need.

Eight drowning deaths have been reported since 25 April. Most of them involved people being swept away when they tried to cross swollen rivers. Five of the deaths were reported in Migori District in the west, and three occurred in Samburu District in the north.

In the port city of Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city, torrential rains over the past five days left hundreds of families homeless after their homes were submerged. Amadi blamed the flooding in Mombasa on poor drainage and the construction of homes in low-lying areas, which prevented the runoff from flowing into the sea. "Some of the problems of flash floods are being caused by failure to abide by the building code," he said. In Kilifi District, north of Mombasa, 3,000 people were displaced after flooding submerged their homes. Hundreds of people sought shelter in churches and schools.

Flooding also hit Wajir District, one of the regions most severely affected by the recent drought. An estimated 10,000 people in Wajir moved out of their dwellings when seasonal rivers breached their banks and flowed into villages following heavy rainfall.

In Nyanza Province in western Kenya, the swollen Nyando River submerged villages in Nyakach and Miwani divisions, Amadi said. About 45 children had been admitted to hospital in Butere District, suffering from waterborne diseases and malaria. Such illnesses were spreading rapidly because of the rains. Hundreds of people in the Khwisero area of Butere had also been displaced by floodwaters.

Other flood-affected districts included Siaya, Rachuonyo, Isiolo and Malindi. Some 3,000 people in the coastal district of Malindi still needed help to rebuild their homes, which were destroyed when the River Sabaki coursed into villages three weeks ago, according to Ruth Muriungi of the Kenya Red Cross Society.

Amadi said deforestation was one of the factors that had exacerbated flooding during the seasonal long rains in Kenya. "Forests used to absorb water and slow down the momentum of floodwater during the rains, but there has been considerable deforestation in the Nandi Hills, Mau Forest, Cherangni Hills and Mount Kenya areas," he said.

Flooding had also destroyed hundreds of hectares of food crops, especially in Kenya's western and coastal regions.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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