Kenya: Death Toll Climbs As Torrential Rains Contine to Batter Kenya

Weeks of heavy rain and floods that have killed nearly 200 people continue to ravage parts of Kenya – causing landslides, destroying roads and forcing people from their homes.

Kenya and its East African neighbours have been battered by monsoon downpours in recent weeks, compounded by the El Nino weather pattern.

Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda were hit hard – with the World Meteorological Organisation warning the current El Nino episode is one of the five strongest ever recorded.

El Nino is a naturally occurring climate pattern typically associated with increased heat worldwide, leading to drought in some parts of the world and heavy rains elsewhere.

Kenya’s Interior Ministry said on Thursday that so far 188 people had been killed by the severe weather since March. Some 90 others were still missing, while at least 165,000 people have been displaced.

The scenes of flooding in Kenya are heartbreaking. Climate change is not a distant threat; it’s here, affecting our lives today. Lives and livelihoods are being lost each day. Urgent action is needed to address this crisis. We need to further localize climate issues and response… pic.twitter.com/JMe5BZOpr8– Elizabeth Wathuti , O.G.W (@lizwathuti) April 29, 2024

Risk of disease

Nearly 100 tourists were among people marooned after a river overflowed in Kenya’s famed Maasai Mara wildlife reserve.

The area is reportedly inaccessible with bridges washed away – with around 50 camps in the reserve having been affected.

“Accessing the Mara is now a nightmare and the people stuck there are really worried, they don’t have an exit route,” administrator Stephen Nakola said, adding that waterborne diseases were likely to emerge.

“I am worried that the situation could get worse because the rains are still on.”

In the deadliest single incident in Kenya, dozens of villagers were killed when a dam burst on Monday near Mai Mahiu in the Rift Valley, about 60 kilometres north of the capital, Nairobi.

The Interior Ministry said 52 bodies had been recovered and 51 people were still missing.

‘Unprepared’

President William Ruto said earlier this week he would deploy the military to evacuate those living in flood-prone areas.

Opposition politicians and lobby groups have accused Ruto’s government of being unprepared and slow to respond to the crisis despite weather warnings, demanding that it declare the floods a national disaster.

“Kenya’s government has a human rights obligation to prevent foreseeable harm from climate change and extreme weather events and to protect people when a disaster strikes,” Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The statement from the NGO said events such as flooding are “particularly threatening for marginalised and at-risk populations, including older people, people with disabilities, people in poverty, and rural populations”.

The United States and Britain have issued travel warnings for Kenya, urging their nationals to be cautious amid the extreme weather.

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