Kenya: Transport Paralysed as Heavy Rains Wreak Havoc in Nyanza

Transport services have been paralysed between Kanyamkago in Migori County and Kanyikela in Homa Bay County after a key bridge that connects the two areas collapsed due to the ongoing heavy rains.

Oria-Riat Bridge along River Kuja collapsed early Wednesday morning when a truck full of sugarcane was crossing the river to Sukari Industries, a local private sugar miller.

No casualties were reported.

"I have sent officers to the scene to investigate what happened. The truck driver was alone when the bridge collapsed early in the morning. He is in a stable condition at a local clinic," said Ndhiwa Sub-county Police Commander Robert Aboko.

The bridge has been in existence for more than 40 years. It plays a major role in linking residents and traders between Migori and Homa Bay counties.

South Kanyikela Chief Moses Ongong'a said the metallic bridge was constructed in 1977 and has been used to transport sugarcane from farms to the industry based in Riata trading centre for processing.

Some of the people it serves include students at Otange primary school, Otange Secondary School and Minyere Secondary school.

"Some students hail from Migori and would cross the river every morning and evening to go to school. The bridge is also used by workers at the milling plant. Most people had not crossed from one side to the other when it collapsed," Mr Ongonga said.

The accident has resulted in a total paralysis of transport between Homa Bay and Migori as residents called on their leaders to put up a foot bridge across river Kuja to ease movement of people.

Mr Fredrick Sije, a resident, claimed truck drivers transporting sugarcane have been defying warnings not to use the bridge when their vehicles are fully loaded.

He said drivers have always been advised to use a different route because the bridge is weak.

"Trucks drivers have always been advised to use Ongito bridge through Amoyo trading centre to minimise risks at the weak bridge. Oria-Riat bridge does not support heavy loads but most drivers have continuously disregarded the danger," he said.

He called on leaders and the management of Sukari Industry to move with speed and construct a foot bridge to ease movement of students and traders across the two counties.

This comes even as pupils of Angugo, Kabuto and Nyora primary Schools in Nyatike Sub County failed to report as schools reopened for third term following flash floods that has swept through the area.

The ongoing heavy downpour has already seen over 800 families left homeless for close to a month weeks after River Kuja broke its banks, flooding several villages in the area.

Compounded with the back flow from Lake Victoria, villages of Angugo, Nyora, Modi and Lwanda are inhabitable, with the affected populace seeking shelter in schools calling on the government for help.

Migori County commissioner Mr Boaz Cherutich said a team comprising the Red Cross, education officials and local administration had been dispatched to "assess the situation and

"I have directed the education ministry, local administration and the Kenya Red cross to visit the affected school and give details of their findings. We are planning to relocate the pupils to neighboring schools" Mr Cherutich said adding that the water levels were contributed by the ongoing construction of Masara-Sori road which had diverted the course of the waters.

"We have contacted the contractor doing the road who plans to raise the road to provide a temporary dyke that will prevent further back flow. We have sent out an appeal food and non-food items from the national government which we expect to arrive in due course," he said.

At the same time, Dhogoye bridge, which connects Bondo Usenge and Osieko has been washed away by floods following a heavy down pour that has been pounding the area for over one week now.

The Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) has warned motorists using the route that acts as a link between Bondo Sub county and Budalangi in Busia County against using the route which is vital for trade.

Kenha sent a travel advisory following the increased rainfall witnessed in several sections of the Lake Victoria basin causing flooding.

"Since there is no alternative access to Osieko, we wish to advise motorists along that section not to attempt crossing the overtopped section and to only cross when the water levels are low," said Kenha.

Out of desperation, for the past few days, the causeway has been covered with water, but locals have been risking by speeding across it, as well as motorists carrying heavy loads.

"The water has already covered the road, we fear that if the rains continue the Lake Victoria water will spread backwards to River Yala and the road will be no more which may lead to deaths should people use it," said George Omondi, a resident of Nyangera in Usenge.

This has been a recurring ussue when there are heavy rains experienced in Nyanza and its environs.

The authority warned heavy trucks to avoid using the crossing for now as they evaluate mechanisms of undertaking works on the structure.

"A permanent bridge is planned and procurement process is underway to solve the rising Lake Victoria water levels at this crossing," read the statement.

Goye crossing, was built in 1975 and was estimated to operate for 20 years before a new one could be built.

It is at the Goye bridge that River Yala drains into Lake Victoria.

However, commuters have been complaining of the road which has been wasting away year in year out as they wait for the water levels to go down.

Locals have however complained about the delay in construction of the bridge that continues to affect the operations on that route.

It is only last week that a truck that overturned next to the bridge paralysed operations along the busy road.

The motorists plying that route also decried thousands of shillings they use to repair their cycles and vehicles.

Earlier, West Kanyuor location chief Philip Opolo over the weekend said over 600 families were displaced in Kakelo-Kakoth sub-location and another 200 from Karapolo and West Kanyuor sub-locations.

Besides displacing families, Mr Opolo said the floods have destroyed farms and road networks exposing residents to more challenges.

The county department for environment and disaster management said it set aside Sh10 million to mitigate floods associated with the long rains but residents said they have received no support so far.

Reporting by Ian Byron, George Odiwour, Rushdie Oudia

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