Kenya: Coast Counties Drowning in Floods as Rivers Break Banks

Vehicles submerged in River Malmalte on the Kapenguria-Kainuk-Lodwar Road following heavy rains which left motorists stranded on either side of the road connecting West Pokot and Turkana counties.

More than 159,000 people in Tana River, Kilifi and Lamu counties have been displaced by floods with this year's deluge being compared to the 1997-1998 destructive El Niño that wreaked havoc across the country.

Tana River is the worst affected in the region after River Tana broke its banks almost two weeks ago, affecting some 150,000 people in the county, about 6,000 in Kilifi and 3,000 in Lamu.

Politicians and government officials have urged the national government to intervene and save the flood victims from the disaster that has so far killed six people.

EVACUATION

Tana River Deputy County Commissioner Michael Kioni said the displaced residents are either living in camps or with their relatives after floods destroyed their houses and farms.

He ordered chiefs to forcibly evacuate residents who are living in dangerous areas.

"Those who will resist will be prosecuted for attempted suicide. Residents still residing in lowlands and along the banks of River Tana that are yet to be flooded should move out. More water is still flowing downstream from the Seven Folks dams. Failure to adhere to the evacuation orders will attract legal action including prosecution," he said.

TANA

Speaking at Bondeni village during the distribution of relief supplies to flood victims on Saturday, Mr Kioni said a county steering group meeting held earlier in the day had established that about 38,000 households had been affected by the floods.

Most of the displacements are in Tana North Sub County where about 16,000 households have been affected followed by Tana Delta Sub-County (14,000 households) and Tana River Sub-County (8,000 households), he said.

He said some areas had been completely cut off and the victims could not be reached by road which have been rendered impassable by the floods.

"Most of the areas can only be reached by air or using boats. The County Steering Group has mobilised boats from government organisations and from private citizens to carry out rescue and evacuation operations," he said.

He said a team had been dispatched to carry out a rapid assessment of the effects of the floods with a view to appealing to local and international well-wishers to assist in mitigating the effects.

KENGEN

The Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) which started releasing water from the Seven Forks hydroelectric dams last week has worsened the situation.

"A government truck that was distributing relief supplies in Waldena location has been stuck in the mud for the last three weeks. More than 3,000 residents were yet to be reached with relief supplies," Mr Kioni said.

He said the police air wing had deployed two helicopters to assist in distributing food and non-food items.

With a projected population of slightly above 300, 000, the county is facing a crisis.

Meanwhile, Wayu Member of County Assembly Sadaam Hussein has appealed to the national government to fully intervene and help the starved people in Wayu and Waldena.

Faces of desperation marked Garashi Secondary School in Magarini, Kilifi where about 6,000 flood victims have been hosted after they were displaced from their homes after River Galana-Sabaki broke its banks.

The Nation found the flood survivors standing outside their tents in the school compound waiting for relief food from the government, well-wishers and humanitarian organisations.

RESCUE

Thursday last week, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) joined the Kenya Red Cross Society, police and other humanitarian organisations using helicopters to rescue about 3,000 people who had been marooned by floods in Garashi and Kakuyuni wards.

Magarini MP Michael Kingi has appealed to well-wishers to help enable them get food, non-food items and funds to the victims to enable them reconstruct and build their homes.

"The government will use water boozers to supply clean water after the floods destroyed boreholes and water pumps at Baricho in Malindi which drills and supplies water in the county and Mombasa," Mr Kingi assured the residents.

At the Garashi camp, Mr Kenga Kitsao, a survivor from Mikuyuni who has two wives and six children said he will be forced to begin a new life after his house and properties were swept away by the raging River Sabaki water.

He said the river begun spilling to his home that lies about a kilometre from the river on Thursday at night.

"We were forced to spend the rest of the night on the rooftop when the water level begun rising until the following morning," said the devastated Mr Kitsao.

ORDEAL

Most residents interviewed said they have never witnessed such kind of a disaster in the region for the last 20 years when the 1997-1998 El Niño floods wreaked havoc in the country.

The floods at River Galana-Sabaki that have destroyed the only source of water for Kilifi County at Baricho is said to be 'out of a natural cause' compared to the one in Tana River that harbours the Seven Forks hydro-power project.

Mr Kitsao, who was in a group of men who went through the same horrid ordeal, said his three houses, furniture, maize plantation, goats, chicken and dogs were swept away by floods.

"We got stranded until about 5pm when we were rescued by KDF chopper," he said adding, "the whereabouts of my livestock and furniture are still unknown."

Mr Nyanje Nyale, also a survivor from Vigulani in Garashi Ward who remained shirtless after the tragedy, said his clothes and other items were swept away while trying to swim across the floods.

"I spend the better part of the day on a tree until a KDF military chopper arrived at around 5pm," he said.

Mr Furaha Ndoro, a father of six children also from Vungulani village said the floods demolished his house and swept his 35 goats, 10 ducks, 25 chicken, furniture, clothes and two sacks of maize.

"I am confused. I do not know how I can begin life afresh or what I will tell our help group about their two sacks of maize which were swept by floods," he said adding, "we thank God we are alive today after being rescued by KDF."

RELIEF

The World Vision in collaboration with the national and county government has already provided tents and other non-food items which include mosquito nets and blankets to the victims at Garashi Secondary school.

The situation is similar at Kakuyuni in Malindi Constituency where about 3,000 survivors have been hosted at Kakuyuni Primary after they were displaced by floods.

The county government through its department of health and disaster management has already set up a clinic at the schools where the survivors have camped while raising funds and food stuffs to assist the flood victims.

SPECIAL PROGRAMS

Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa who heads the special programs docket said there is enough rice, maize, beans and cooking oil which shall be supplied to the affected counties.

Speaking at Kakuyuni Primary School during his tour of flood victims on Saturday, CS Wamalwa said the government would use Kenya Defence Forces and police helicopters to supply relief food to all those who are in areas that cannot be accessed by roads.

He said his ministry will also hold talks with the Education ministry to ensure all the students affected by floods are allowed to reopen school as most of their parents lost everything in the disaster and cannot afford to pay fees.

REBUILDING

On Saturday, the Devolution CS toured Kilifi, Tana River, Marsabit and Mandera counties and assured the families affected that the government will assist them rebuild their homes and get seeds, fertilizers and other farm equipment once the situation returns to normalcy.

Health officials at the Kakuyuni Primary School IDP camp said they had begun detecting cases of diarrhea and dysentery in children and adults but have enough medical supplies to handle the situation.

Kakuyuni Member of County Assembly Nixon Muramba said the major challenge was where the IDPs would be taken when schools reopen next week.

"We don't know where to take them. We need food. We have blankets and nets but they are not enough, women also require sanitary pads," he said.

Kilifi County Commissioner Magu Mutindika opposed calls for compensation following reports by area political leaders that some dams along River Sabaki at the upstream were opened to allow excess water to flow thereby flooding people's homes in Kilifi.

"The river stretches from Athi, Galana to Sabaki does not have any hydro-electric power project since all the Seven Folk projects are found in River Tana and the two rivers do not meet at any place," he said at Garashi.

KILIFI

Governor Amason Kingi has also been touring the area for the last two days assisting the flood victim's evacuation and supporting in food supplies.

Meanwhile, more than 3,000 people in Lamu have been left in the cold after their homes were swept away by floods after River Tana and Nyongoro broke their banks recently.

Speaking to the Nation early Sunday morning, Lamu Deputy Commissioner Louis Rono said residents who are affected the most are from Chalaluma, Dide Waride, Moa, Nyongoro and Matabore villages.

The residents have had to seek and set up temporary shelters elsewhere after they were rendered homeless by the floods.

Mr Rono said a team of national government officers in coordination with the Kenya Red Cross Society, Lamu Branch have already been sent to the ground to assess the situation and offer aid to the affected.

At Chalaluma village, 287 families are left in the cold after houses were swept away by the floods on Sunday while 82 others will spend the night in the cold at Moa village.

Locals at Dide Waride face a similar situation with more than 30 houses already surrounded by flood water.

The road from Chalaluma to Moa is currently impassable due to flooding and it is only accessible by boat or chopper.

"The situation is worrying. We have intervened and assisted the victims with relief food, including rice and beans. The Kenya Red Cross Society has also assisted the affected villagers with drinking water. We will be taking more relief supplies on Tuesday," said Mr Rono.

At Matabore village, which is an isolated Island located between Moa in Lamu and Kipao in Tana River, over 1,000 heads of livestock including cows, goats and sheep have been stranded for more than a week now after they were marooned by floods following the bursting of River Tana.

The island is mostly used by fishermen and pastoralists who have set up temporary settlements.

Residents who talked to the Nation on Sunday said their livestock now risk being swept away by the floods.

"We want the government and well-wishers to intervene and help us rescue our livestock alive. We are worried that all our livestock will be swept away by the continued flooding," said Mr Roka Yusuf.

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