Passengers escape death as agency calls for caution

Saturday October 21 2017

FLOODING BUS TRAPPED

This photo taken on October 21, 2017 shows police officers and a Kenya Red Cross official pondering how to rescue passengers of a bus trapped in a seasonal river in Kalemorok, Turkana County. PHOTO | SAMMY LUTTA | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

By SAMMY LUTTA
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Forty passengers narrowly escaped death early Saturday morning after a bus was swept away by a flash flood on the Kitale-Lodwar highway in Turkana County.

The passengers were heading to Lodwar when they were trapped at Kainuk Bridge on the Turkana-West Pokot border by flood water at 2am.

The driver of the Eldoret Express unsuccessfully tried to drive across a seasonal river in Kalemorok.

The bus was swept off the damaged bridge and rolled on its side.

ESCAPE
After overturning, it got stuck in the mud and rocks, giving passengers an opportunity to escape through the windows.

They stood on the side of the bus as they waited to be rescued.

Kenya Red Cross officials, assisted by travellers in other vehicles, led the rescue mission.

Mr James Kisike, a Kitale resident, said that at around 2am the bus driver tried to force his way through the rising water but got stuck midway.

RESCUE
Mr Kisike said that the driver ignored advice from fellow drivers who were waiting for the water levels to subside.

"The bus that was full to capacity and with heavy luggage, which included fruits and vegetables, fell on one side forcing occupants to struggle through windows and step on the side of the vehicle and ask for help," he said.

Mr Kisike said that all the occupants were rescued by fellow motorists and residents of Kalemorok, Turkana County; and by 10am "vehicles were able to pass just near the bus".

FLASH FLOODS
Eldoret Express Service Company Lodwar Manager John Kimani said the bus had 40 passengers at the time of the incident, confirming that all of them were rescued and booked in other buses and proceeded to Lodwar.

National Disaster Management Unit Deputy Director Pius Masai on Friday warned members of public to be wary about flash floods during the rainy season.

"We also call upon the County Disaster Teams to always respond and assist in search and rescue mission in case of such incidents.

"Members of public should also be sensitized to avoid similar incidents," Mr Masai said.

BRIDGE
Turkana County primarily relies on the Kitale-Lodwar-Nadapal Road, on which the damaged bridge is located, for transportation of over 90 per cent of food supplies from West Pokot, Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu counties.

Kenya National Highways Authority has since restricted motorists from using the 150 meters-long bridge as they work on a quick solution.

In a public advisory to motorists and members of public, the agency said that because of rains within the Northern and Western parts of the country, Kainuk Bridge is not safe for use.

The bridge serves as a crucial link between Marich Pass in West Pokot County and Lokichar in Turkana County.

BANDITS
KeNHA said initially one side had been affected but vehicles were able to use the other functional side of the bridge since Friday, however subsequent flooding has affected the embankment wall of the bridge thus rendering it unsafe.

"KeNHA advises all motorists to be patient as an agent solution was being implemented to address the situation," a statement by Corporate Communication Assistant Director Charles Njogu read.

Aside from flood dangers, Kainuk Assistant Chief Sarah Lochodo said bandits prey on people in the area near the bridge.

"I urge KeNHA to quickly construct an alternative bridge to allow safe and easier movement of goods," Ms Lochodo told Nation on phone.

LORRIES
In 2014, there was a public outcry over the state of Kainuk Bridge after fissures started developing on the surface and cracks on the pillars, curving it inside.

It was as a result of being overused by heavy trucks headed to oil fields in Turkana as well as commodities headed to Lodwar and South Sudan.

To address the trucking matter, a temporary bridge was constructed for use by lorries carrying over 3.5 tonnes of load.

But it was used for a few months before they reverted to Kainuk Bridge.

ROAD UPGRADE

Mr Joshua Kinyajui, a Kainuk resident, the bridge has also been affected by harsh weather and water from River Turkwel.

When it rains the water level increases thus affecting the bridge's stability.

In November last year, Deputy President William Ruto launched the Sh3.2 billion upgrade of 297km Lesseru-Amosing section where the two bridges are located, which when completed will facilitate oil transportation by road to Eldoret.

Also, the 960km Eldoret-Juba road linking Kenya and South Sudan will be upgraded through a World Bank credit of Sh50 billion.