- "Twelve bodies have been recovered, and a search for more is going on," Pokot County Commissioner, Apollo Okello, told news reporters on Saturday.
- Army and police helicopters have been dispatched to facilitate aid, the interior minister said.
- Floods are a regular phenomenon in the region, but a climate phenomenon has caused devastating rains in recent weeks.
Mudslides that were caused by heavy rains have killed at least 29 people in western Kenya, the nation’s interior minister said Saturday. A previous record of local officials reported at least twelve dead. “We are saddened to confirm that 12 people from Tapach and Parua in Pokot South, and 17 from Tamkal in Pokot Central lost their lives,” Kenyan Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i said in a statement.
Houses were washed away in the night from Friday to Saturday by torrential rains in the Pokot area, some 350 km north-west of Nairobi. “Twelve bodies have been recovered, and a search for more is going on,” Pokot County Commissioner, Apollo Okello, told news reporters on Saturday. Two children were found alive in the rubble and were immediately rushed to hospital, according to the central government official. “Heavy rains are a challenge as roads were cut and bridges closed, but we are doing our best,” the local administrator added.
The Number Could Increase
Army and police helicopters have been dispatched to facilitate aid, the interior minister said. The international humanitarian organization, Red Cross, also reported “massive landslides” in different parts of the county and said teams had been sent there. According to police officers on the ground, the number of the dead is likely to increase as the search operations are still ongoing.
Kenya is not the only country affected in East Africa. The rains have left tens of thousands displaced in Somalia, flooded entire cities in South Sudan, and killed dozens in Ethiopia and Tanzania. Floods are a regular phenomenon in the region, but scientists say a climate phenomenon centered on the Indian Ocean, a power never seen for years, has caused devastating rains in recent weeks. Currently, the waters around East Africa are warmer than normal at this time of the year, causing increased evaporation, as humid air flowing to the mainland is turned into rain.
The situation isn’t a new phenomenon in the region, as the entire East African region is prone to floods and landslides, whose adverse effects are normally experienced almost annually. For instance, on October 12 last year, persistent heavy rainfall caused rocks to slide on Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda, just on the border with western Kenya. Several villages were buried, and in addition, many victims drowned in a nearby river that broke its banks. More than 34 people were killed, according to records from emergency services.
The landslides happened higher up the mountain, but because of the heavy rainwater, mixed with earth and large rocks, fell down with full force. All houses within 100 meters of the river banks were dragged. Bridges, schools, trees and cattle were dragged by the river.