17 May 2012

Kenya: Landslides Alert As Heavy Rains Pound Mt Elgon Area

THE Mt Elgon district disaster management committee is on high alert amid fears of possible landslides as heavy rains continue to pound the area. At least four houses have been flattened by falling rocks in the steep terrain since the rains started.

Cheptais DC Omar Salat told the Star yesterday that close to 3,000 people, who are leaving on the slopes of the mountain have been advised to vacate the most vulnerable areas. "We are calling upon those living on slopes of the mountain to move with immediate effect," he said Salat said meetings to sensitise area residents on landslides have been held to curb loss of life and property, adding that departments are on high alert to deal with any emergency.

He, however, said the evacuation is voluntary because the government will not provide alternative land for resettlement. "We are advising them to move to safer grounds for their own good," he said. However, the residents are living in fear of landslides after the rains displaced several people and destroyed crops in Taikut village in Toroso location

The residents of Kimama, Kapkirongo and Chebwek villages on the slopes of the Mt Elgon, which have been identified as the vulnerable to the landslides, have appealed to the government to relocate them elsewhere until the rains subside to avert a possible crisis. "We are ready to vacate the area, but we have nowhere to go to and that is why we need the government to intervene," said Ben Chemiati.

Area MP Fred Kapondi asked the government to act before disaster strikes. He said officials from the ministries of Internal Security and Special Programmes should tour the area and seek ways of relocating the people living on the slopes of hills. "The government needs to act fast because we are sitting on a time bomb," he added.

Mt Elgon County Council chairman Amos Tulgon said the residents are willing to move but there was no alternative settlement for them. A survey by the Star showed that the most areas on the slopes of the mountain have been cut off as the few roads have been rendered impassable by the rains, a situation that is likely rescue efforts in case of an emergency.

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