Kenya: After Mudslides, Experts Warn of Lake Victoria Backflow

Mulungu beach in Munyonyo that was cut off by the rising water levels of Lake Victoria on April 12.

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Chesogon on the border of Elgeyo-Marakwet and West Pokot counties in the wake of Saturday's tragic mudslide with 12 dead so far and thousands displaced.

Heavy rains continued to pound the area as Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya said eight more people had died from the floods including a police officer who was pulled out alive but passed on at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.

The officer was among the four who were rushed to hospital with injuries after Chesogon Police Station was swept away by the raging floods.

"We attempted to resuscitate him but unfortunately we lost him. The others responded well to treatment and two have been released," MTRH chief executive Wilson Aruasa said last evening.

The conditions continued to deteriorate Monday as heavy rainfall continued to pound the area fanning fears the recurrence of the floods and mudslides.

Those displaced were cramped up in makeshift structures with no food as relief aid was yet to reach the affected areas. The 4,000 people who were displaced by the landslide have camped at Sambalat Primary School where a rescue command centre has been established as charity organisations tried to distribute some little food resources with the help of county government officials and security personnel.

The Kenya Red Cross was conducting rescue missions in Chesogon and outlying areas. Hundreds sought shelter under trees and in caves after their homes were swept away. More bodies were pulled out from mud and debris including that of a child.

Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos said they were working hard to rescue as many people as possible.

"A young girl has been rescued and she is being rushed to hospital. The conditions here are making it difficult for us to know the number of people missing," Mr Tolgos told the Nation. Meanwhile, environmental and marine experts have urged the government to reach out to Uganda in an effort to reduce the flow of water from Lake Victoria to Jinja dam.

They said this would reduce the backflow that has caused massive flooding in Kenya.

Kenya Marine Fisheries and Research Institute (KMFRI) Kisumu Director Inland Fishing and Limnology Chrispine Nyamweya said the agency will need the cooperation of the East Africa Community for speedy control of the rising water levels at the lake.

"We should use the good relations we have with our neighbours to have them release more water at Jinja into the River Nile so that we are able to reduce the rising waters of the lake," Dr Nyamweya told the Nation. The backflow has affected hundreds of families in Kisumu, Siaya, Busia and Migori counties.

Over 400 families at Migingo island and in Muhuru Bay, Lwanda Komhango and Kibro are now camping in schools after rising water levels submerged their homes. At Kawo, Muhuru, Senye and Lwanda beaches, close to 200 homes have been submerged.

Muhuru Bay MCA Hevrone Maira said the water levels have risen steadily in the past few months, creeping into homes, displacing families and destroying vegetation.

Experts now caution that the onset of long rains could imperil livelihoods further as an unprecedented downpour continues to be recorded in the Lake Victoria catchment areas.

This comes amid the abnormally heavy rainfall that have been pounding Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania since October and November 2019.

A Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) survey revealed that Lake Victoria's water levels had risen by more than two metres.

LVBC Executive Secretary Ali-Said Matano said the current water levels were only comparable to levels last seen in the 1960s when the overflow rose by close to 2.5 metres between 1960 and 1964 (1,136.28 meters above mean sea level).

Reporting by Oscar Kakai, Evans Kipkura, Victor Raballa, Elizabeth Ojina and Ian Byron

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