Toll from Patel Dam tragedy hits 33 - PHOTOS & VIDEO - Daily Nation

33 dead, hundreds displaced as Patel Dam 'bursts' in Nakuru

Thursday May 10 2018

By MAGDALENE WANJA
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By ERIC MATARA
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At least 33 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds of families displaced after the walls of Patel Dam in Solai, Nakuru County, broke down on Wednesday night.

Rongai police boss Japheth Kioko on Thursday said 33 bodies had been recovered, with search and rescue operation ongoing.

There are fears of the toll rising further because "many people" are still unaccounted for, according to local leaders.

Residents told the Nation that they heard an "explosion" before water gushed out, sweeping away hundreds of homes in the neighbourhood, including those on the expansive Nyakinyua Farm, which borders the water reservoir.

PROPERTY

The 9pm horror rendered over 300 families homeless and about 2,500 residents were affected.

Property estimated to be worth millions of shillings was also destroyed by the raging waters and thick mud.

Tens of people, including children, are feared trapped in the black mud.

Rescue operation by Kenya Red Cross and Nakuru County disaster management teams went into the small hours of Thursday.

By 1am, about 40 people had been rescued from the mud and rushed to local health facilities, including Bahati Sub-County and Nakuru Level Five hospitals.

Patel dam

Ambulances rush survivors of the tragedy to hospital on May 9, 2018. PHOTO | MAGDALENE WANJA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The rescue mission was called off at 2am due to darkness but resumed on Thursday morning.

The dam water and mud spilt out of the reservoir and submerged homes, extending to a radius of nearly two kilometres.

3 DAMS

A senior police officer at the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity, said emergency workers had spent the night combing through engulfed houses to retrieve the bodies of the victims and had only covered about half of the affected area.

"We found 11 of the bodies covered with mud at a coffee plantation and these are people who may have been escaping but could not make it due to the force and speed of the water from the flooded dam," he said.

"Most of them are women and children who could not have been able to run fast, and the elderly."

The mega dam is one of the three water reservoirs owned by a large-scale irrigation farmer, Mr Mansukul Patel, who was not around at the time of the tragedy.

Patel dam

Some of the houses that were destroyed by floodwaters from Patel Dam in Solai Ward, Subukia. PHOTO | JOSEPH OPENDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The one that wreaked havoc is situated on the upper end of his expansive farm and initial reports indicate that it "burst" due to high volumes of water.

Its location on the upper side of the farm as locals live in low-lying areas has elicited many questions, with Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui saying they will investigate if Mr Patel was licensed to set up the reservoirs.

The other two dams are intact but with with high volumes of water.

Patel dam

A survivor of the tragedy receives treatment at the Bahati Sub-County Hospital. PHOTO | MAGDALENE WANJA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A team from both the national and county governments is expected to assess them this morning.

The dams are surrounded by an informal settlement housing casual labourers who work on nearby farms.

Kabazi MCA Peter Mbae told the Nation that more than 20 families had been evacuated to safe grounds.

"We assure residents that the rescue teams are doing their best to evacuate affected families to safety and assist victims get medical attention,” said Mr Mbae.

Patel dam

Residents leave after their houses were destroyed by floodwaters from Patel Dam in Solai Ward, Subukia. PHOTO | JOSEPH OPENDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Governor Kinyanjui said the flood waters caused huge destruction of both life and property.

The extent of the damage is yet to be ascertained, he said in a statement.

“The county has dispatched ambulances to the scene to aid in evacuation of victims,” he said.

Patel dam

A survivor of the tragedy receives treatment at the Bahati Sub-County Hospital. PHOTO | MAGDALENE WANJA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“Medics have been mobilised at Bahati Sub-County Hospital and Nakuru County Referral Hospital and are on standby to receive victims.”

Mr Kinyanjui said they were doing their best to evacuate affected families to safety and assist victims get medical attention.

“We urge residents to continue to be vigilant due to flooding caused by heavy rains experienced in the county and other parts of the country,” he said.

Patel dam

Some of the houses that were destroyed by floodwaters from Patel Dam in Solai Ward, Subukia. PHOTO | JOSEPH OPENDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He said the county government will donate foodstuffs and other items to the displaced families on Thursday.

A centre, he said, has been set up near the scene for families to report missing members.

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Floodwaters from Patel Dam in Solai Ward, Subukia, damaged property of unknown value. PHOTO | JOSEPH OPENDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

"This will enable us reunite families who may have separated from their loved ones during the incident," he said.

Additional reports by Harry Misiko, Joseph Openda and AFP.