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It was a narrow escape for me – Chesegon landslide survivor

Thursday April 30 2020

Landslide survivor Nancy Byatich

Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya (left) speaks to Nancy Byatich, who survived the Chesegon landslide tragedy at the Elgeyo-Marakwet-Pokot border. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

WYCLIFF KIPSANG
By WYCLIFF KIPSANG
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A university student who survived the Chesegon landslide tragedy at the Elgeyo-Marakwet-Pokot border has said that she only has God to thank for being alive.

Speaking from the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret where she is recuperating, Nancy Byatich, a fourth year student at Moi University, on Wednesday told visitors, who included Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya who checked on her, that she clutched on a branch until help came her way two days after the tragedy which claimed more than 20 lives.

“I thank God for saving my life. I’ve not stolen anything from anybody and I’ll continue glorifying God,” said an emotional Nancy who thanked doctors at MTRH for the care she has been receiving.

BRUISES ALL OVER

Her face, legs and hands are bruised, a clear indication of her brush with death. she does not want to be shown the gory photos of the day she was rescued by the Kenya Red Cross Society personnel with the help of residents, six kilometres downstream.

A soft-spoken Nancy was trapped in mud and carried downstream from Chesegon market centre on the fateful night on April 18, 2020 following heavy downpour.

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Mr Natembeya, who was accompanied by Uasin County Commissioner Abdirisak Jaldesa and County Police Commander Johnstone Ipara, said that in the Elgeyo-Marakwet side, 24 people are still missing following the tragedy. He added that for eight of the victims, only body parties have been recovered.

POLICE OFFICERS DEAD

He said that that on the West Pokot side, three people, among them two police officers, lost their lives following the tragedy while another four are still missing.

“Unfortunately we also lost another officer who had been admitted to MTRH while four others were treated and discharged. The lady (Nancy) has given us a lot of hope due to her resilience after surviving in water for two days. We are impressed by efforts doctors have put to assist her,” said Mr Natembeya.

He told off a section of leaders from the two counties who have faulted the government for calling off the rescue mission despite the fact that some people are still missing.

RESCUE OPERATION

“Since we called off the rescue exercise, no body has been recovered because we searched the entire breath of the landslide scene. I’m surprised that those complaining are MPs who were not even there during the exercise. Where have they resurfaced from?” asked Mr Natembeya.

He said that command centres are still operational, adding that the government will continue offering food to the displaced people.

Mr Natembeya, on Thursday presided over the laying of wreaths at the scene, which symbolised the end of the search and rescue operation.

Chesegon market, which had been closed for many years due to rampant insecurity, was just re-opened last year in a ceremony presided over by Deputy President William Ruto following years of peace efforts by leaders from the Pokot and Marakwet communities.

CLOSED MARKET

For many years, the market bore the brunt of the flare-ups resulting to it being closed for more than a year.

The weatherman has urged Kenyans to brace themselves for heavy rainfall, warning that it may result in flooding and landslides in some parts of the country.

Geological experts in Rift Valley has also warned of more landslides and flash floods should the heavy downpour pounding the region persist.

Enock Kipseba, a geologist, urged residents living in landslide and flood prone areas in the North Rift to be cautious.

He asked residents to move to safety whenever they notice landslide signs such as cracks or water springs near their homes to avoid loss of lives and property.

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