Kenya: Humanitarian Crisis in West Pokot After Landslide Left 52 Dead, More Missing

The rains have destroyed a huge section of the Kitale-Lodwar road.
25 November 2019

Nairobi — West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo appealed to the national government to deploy a chopper to the region to help transport bodies after the death toll rose to 52.

"The challenge we are facing here is transportation because bridges have been cut off, we need the government to station a chopper here," he told reporters on Monday morning.

"The number of people confirmed dead now is 52," he said, "there are other bodies that are yet to be transported from the villages."

Police and humanitarian groups involved in the search for bodies said the death toll could be much higher due to the number of people reported missing.

Efforts were underway Monday to help displaced families who were left homeless after their houses were buried by a landslide or swept away by floods in remote villages following heavy rainfall pounding various parts of the country.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi was expected to visit the area to assess the damage and coordinate operations.

Affected families were camping in schools, churches and other facilities far from their villages where houses were submerged, covering even animals.

"It is a major disaster, I have lost my family and my cows," said Joseph Edapal.

Government response teams and the Kenya Cross Society had been relocating affected families in neighbouring homes and survivors to far-flung areas to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.

An official involved in the search operation said "The problem we are facing is where we are taking the bodies because the local mortuary Is full beyond capacity and bodies now have to be taken to Kapenguria."

"We are also facing resistance from people who don't want to move because they want to be allowed to bury their kin," he added.

The rains have paralyzed transport in some parts of the country after rendering roads impassable and bridges swept away.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has urged motorists to exercise caution while driving during this rainy season.

According to the weatherman, the rainfall is expected to continue for the entire season with occasional breaks.

The Kenya Meteorological Department has warned of heavy rain throughout next week, with up to 30mm raising fears of more devastating effects in various parts of the country.

Regions likely to be affected include Western, South Eastern, Northwestern, Northeastern and central regions including Nairobi.

"The current heavy rains being experienced over several parts of the country are expected to continue on Sunday 24 November 2019 and 25 November. The rainfall intensities are expected to reduce from Wednesday over several parts of Kenya," reads an alert from the Met department.

It warned residents to be "on the lookout for potential floods, they are also advised to avoid driving through, or walking in moving water or open fields and not to shelter under trees and near grilled windows to minimize exposure to lightning strikes," states the alert."

President Uhuru Kenyatta has already ordered authorities to relocate residents in floods and landslide-prone areas following Saturday's tragedy in West Pokot where more than 30 people died, with many more still missing after their villages were swept off.

"I have directed Regional Commissioners in flood and landslide-prone regions of our country to work very closely with our security and humanitarian teams to ensure that citizens in these areas are urgently moved to safer grounds," President Kenyatta said in a statement from State House.

In Meru National Park, three tourists and their driver were rescued after their vehicle was swept off on River Rojeweru.

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