Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mudslide kills 11 people, displaces 25 families

By NATION Team [email protected]

Three villages in Elgeyo Marakwet County were plunged into mourning following a mudslide that killed 11 people and displaced 25 families early on Saturday.

Five people died at Kapechei Location in the mudslide caused by a heavy downpour that started on Friday evening around 6pm and continued until Saturday morning.

Four more people died in another mudslide at Kaptarakwa in Keiyo South while the other two died in Rokocho.

Villagers were in a state of confusion as they wondered where they would spend the night, fearing that more rain would pound the area and set off more landslides.

In Kapechei, three boys – Collins Kiprotich, 15, Gideon Kimutai, 10, and Victor Kiplagat, eight – lost their lives when a river of mud buried the house in which they were sleeping. Their parents sleeping in an adjacent house miraculously escaped.

Their father Stanley Kipruto said he had not come to terms with the loss of his three sons.

“It’s very, very painful,” he told the Sunday Nation.

He said they are forced to live on the unstable hills since it is their ancestral land and they do not have anywhere else to go to or the money to buy land elsewhere.

“If the government would relocate us to any other place we would be willing to surrender this land to the government and then they can use it for reforestation,” Mr Kipruto said.

The villages are located along the Kerio Valley escarpment. A Sunday Nation team that visited the area saw places where the pounding rains that continued to midday Saturday had washed the soil away.

The sky remained overcast, and it was apparent that more rain would follow. Sections of the road leading to Kocholwa from Fluorspar had been cut off by River Endo and River Molol.

Some families living in mudslide-prone sections of the escarpment had moved yesterday to stay with relatives or friends as they wait for the heavy rains to subside.

Rift Valley PPO John Mbijiwe appealed to the affected families to relocate to higher ground to avoid more deaths.

Elgeyo Marakwet County commissioner Mohammed Birik said 25 displaced households will receive humanitarian aid from the government. He also asked residents to plant more trees to help minimise such occurrences in the future.

Kenya Red Cross rescuers joined villagers in recovering the bodies buried in the mud. The injured were taken to the Kamwosor and Kipsaos health centres.

Locals said the area is beset by mudslides and landslides, but they are yet to get direction from government experts on how to avoid such disasters. They appealed to the State to consider relocating them to a safer place to avoid recurring incidents. 

“We are tired of the government coming in only when our people have died yet this is a problem that keeps recurring during the long and short rains,” said Mr Elkanah Kemei, a resident of Kocholwa where three people were buried alive by the mudslide.

Another resident, Mr Julius Belabor, said impassable roads had frustrated rescue efforts. He cited a case where one of the victims died as he struggled to trek through the impassable road from Kocholwa to Fluorspar area to get a vehicle to take him to hospital.

In Meru County in Mt Kenya region, businesses reported losses after heavy rains continued pounding the county for the second day.

Businessmen at Makutano in Meru town were at a loss after the downpour submerged their premises. They urged the area Municipal Council to improve the drainage system in the town.

Meru police boss Tom Mboya Odero asked residents living in mudslide-and- landslide-prone areas to be cautious and inform authorities of any possible incidents to avoid disaster.

“I appeal to those living in areas that have a history of landslides to inform police of any incidents so that they can be evacuated if need be,” Mr Odero said.

In Imenti Central and Imenti South districts, police bosses Silvester Githungo and John Cheruyoit said no incidents had been reported there.

Mr Cheruyoit singled out Keeria quarry and advised workers to keep away from the site where several drownings had occurred in the past.

In Nakuru County, more than 300 internally displaced persons camping on the roadside in Subukia District were counting their losses after their household goods were swept away by flash floods during a heavy downpour.

The IDPs had arrived in the area on Friday morning and pitched tent near a farm they say the government is going to purchase for them.

“We came with tattered tents which could not withstand the heavy rains which have been pounding this area for the last two days,” said their spokesman, Mr Joseph Kisio.

In Nyanza, hundreds of families have been displaced by torrential rainfall.

In Ombeyi location within Muhoroni constituency, a burial was postponed after the grave was completely flooded.

According to area resident Jack Omondi most families have been displaced, and several dwellings were destroyed when River Nyando burst its banks.

“We are stranded. Our animals have been swept away, and most of us are likely to spend nights in the cold,” Mr Omondi said.

Reports by Dennis Odunga, Philomen Suter, Tom Otieno, Kennedy Kimanthi, Francis Mureithi, Fred Muruja and Everline Okewo