10 dead as floods wreak havoc in Kenyan capital | World News - Hindustan Times
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10 dead as floods wreak havoc in Kenyan capital

AFP |
Apr 25, 2024 03:20 AM IST

The East Africa region has been lashed by relentless downpours in recent weeks, as the El Nino weather pattern exacerbates the seasonal rainfall.

Storms and flash floods turned roads into gushing rivers and swamped homes with waist-high muddy water across the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people.

A family uses a boat after fleeing floodwaters that wreaked havoc in the Githurai area of Nairobi, Kenya, Wednesday, April 24, 2024.(AP)
A family uses a boat after fleeing floodwaters that wreaked havoc in the Githurai area of Nairobi, Kenya, Wednesday, April 24, 2024.(AP)

The East Africa region has been lashed by relentless downpours in recent weeks, as the El Nino weather pattern exacerbates the seasonal rainfall.

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Across Nairobi, vehicles were stuck in the deluge and people waded through floodwaters in slum areas to reach safety.

"The number of bodies recovered so far are 10 and we have other people who are missing," Fred Abuga, a local police commander, told AFP.

According to the Nairobi county governor's office, an estimated 60,000 people, mostly women and children, have been "severely affected" by the floods.

The Kenya Met Department warned that "heavy to very heavy" rainfall was forecast in various parts of the country until May.

In one incident Wednesday, police fired tear gas to disperse angry residents who had blocked a main highway with long queues of cars calling for government action over the floods.

- 'City at a standstill' -

Kenya Railways announced it was temporarily suspending commuter train services, while the roads authority said four roads in the capital had been partly closed.

"The city is at a standstill because most roads are flooded," said Uber driver Kelvin Mwangi.

"We are having to use longer routes and in some cases we can't get to our destination."

Homes were engulfed in the sprawling Nairobi slum of Mathare, where residents took to rooftops to save their lives and belongings.

The Kenya Red Cross said it had rescued 18 people including seven children stranded in Mathare.

It posted a picture on X showing its workers, some waist-high in water, engaged in rescue efforts, as a man carried a young child on his shoulder.

In a dramatic rescue on Tuesday, Kenyan police said they had saved a five-year-old boy who had been marooned alone by floods in Machakos County southeast of the capital.

The youngster had been left behind by his father as the waters rose and was airlifted to safety by chopper, the National Police Service said on X.

The Red Cross said the Athi River, the second longest in Kenya that runs south of Nairobi to the Indian Ocean, had burst its banks, blocking roads and leaving residents stranded.

It said it had rescued 96 people in a town also named Athi River.

"Our response teams are on the ground in most of these areas, evacuating families to safety and providing other life-saving interventions."

In downtown Nairobi where many government offices and the parliament are based, a main avenue was blocked by fallen trees.

"This rain is a disaster, and we fear it will be worse if it continues for two more days," said Rosemary Okello, who owns a shop on the avenue.

- 'Extreme' situation -

Prominent opposition senator Edwin Sifuna said the situation had "escalated to extreme levels" and that the county authorities were "clearly overwhelmed".

"We need all national emergency services mobilised to save lives," he said on X.

UN humanitarian agency OCHA had said on Friday that the rains and floods had claimed the lives of at least 32 people in Kenya and displaced more than 40,000 since the start of the rainy season in March.

Elsewhere in the region, nearly 100,000 people have been displaced in Burundi, while at least 58 people have died in Tanzania and several thousand made homeless.

El Nino often has devastating consequences in East Africa, a region already hit by repeated climate shocks.

Late last year more than 300 people died in torrential rains and floods in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia just as the region was trying to recover from its worst drought in four decades.

From October 1997 to January 1998, massive floods caused more than 6,000 deaths in five countries in the region.

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