Floods wreak havoc in Kenya's game parks

Thursday March 4 2010

Soldiers keep guard as people cross a bridge at Archer’s Post in Isiolo, which was destroyed after Ewaso Nyiro River broke its banks on Thursday. Photo/ JOSEPH KANYI

Soldiers keep guard as people cross a bridge at Archer’s Post in Isiolo, which was destroyed after Ewaso Nyiro River broke its banks on Thursday. Photo/ JOSEPH KANYI  

By PATRICK NZIOKA and HASSAN HUKA

Property worth millions of shillings in a game park was destroyed early on Thursday morning when Ewaso Nyiro River burst its banks.

Several lodges and a research centre in the expansive Samburu National Reserve were damaged, forcing scores of tourists on holiday and researchers to be moved elsewhere.

The establishments affected include the Save the Elephants research centre and Elephant Watch Safari Camp, along with five other neighbouring lodges.

Three of the lodges – Samburu-Serena, Intrepid and Larsen Lodges – were submerged. The owner of Elephant Watch Safari Camp, Oria Douglas-Hamilton, said they managed to evacuate their guests to higher grounds. “Several members of our staff sought refuge in trees until the water subsided,” Ms Hamilton said.

The operations manager of Save the Elephants centre, Ms Lucy King, said the floods started shortly after 7am before it swept their research facility. “Researchers and staff managed to drive to safety within seconds of the flood waters surging through the centre,” Ms King said.

Various items – including beds, tents, computers and vital research documentation – were submerged while others were strewn on tree tops.

Cost of rebuilding

Ms King said although it was too early to assess the amount of the damage. They expected the cost of rebuilding the centre to run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The National Tourism Crisis Management Committee said planes from the Kenya Air Force, the Police, the Kenya Wildlife Service and the private sector arrived with the necessary rescue equipment and evacuated those affected.

About 40 tourists and hundreds of local workers were moved to safer grounds. The tourists were later transferred to either Nairobi or Nanyuki in five planes sent by tour firms.

Two bridges were destroyed by the massive waters following heavy rains in the Aberdares, the catchment for the river.

The police had a hard time downstream controlling crowds who plunged into the waters in a bid to take the items that had been washed away.