Dozens dead as floods wreak havoc across Kenya

Heavy rain has triggered widespread flooding as rivers burst their banks.

April 25, 2024, 9:50 AM

LONDON -- Days of torrential rain have triggered widespread flooding across parts of Kenya, turning roads into raging rivers and claiming dozens of lives.

Half of Kenya's 47 counties have been affected by the flooding, which has killed at least 32 people and displaced more than 40,000 others from their homes, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which cited the Kenya Red Cross Society.

The ongoing El Nino, a warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean that increases wind shear over the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, has brought higher-than-average seasonal rainfall to East Africa. The heavy rain began in Kenya in March during the start of the country's so-called long rains season and worsened over the past week, according to the Kenya Meteorological Department.

The Kenya Red Cross said its staff have rescued at least 188 people since the onset of the long rains, which typically last from March through May. Nearly 8,000 acres of land remain submerged and almost 5,000 livestock deaths have been reported.

Residents of Mathare slum use the wall to cross a flooded school field, following heavy down pour in the capital, Nairobi on April 24, 2024.
Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images

The Kenyan capital of Nairobi has been particularly hard hit, with over 31,000 people displaced from their homes, mostly informal settlements that have poor and blocked drainage systems, according to OCHA. Nairobi County's senator, Edwin Sifuna, posted a video on social media showing flooded homes with people stranded on the rooftops.

"The situation in Nairobi has escalated to extreme levels," Sifuna wrote in the post on Wednesday. "The County Government for all its efforts is clearly overwhelmed. We need all national emergency services mobilized to save lives."

The cabinet secretary for the Kenyan Ministry of Interior, Kithure Kindiki, said in a statement on Thursday that the federal government has "stepped up" its "multi-agency response" by coordinating search and rescue operations, ensuring the evacuation of those at risk and mobilizing support for the displaced.

"The public is urged to cooperate with safety, health, risk, emergency, and communication teams dispatched to monitor, report, and oversee help to those who may be in distress," Kindiki added.

Earlier this week, the Kenya Red Cross said it deployed drones that spotted a child who was alone and trapped by floodwaters in Machakos County. The organization alerted Kenya's National Police Service, whose officers rescued the young boy via helicopter and then reunited him with this family.

The relentless downpours and flash flooding have also impacted transportation nationwide. Kenya Railways suspended commuter train services on Wednesday, while the Kenya Urban Roads Authority partially closed several major roads in Nairobi.

More heavy rainfall is in the forecast over the coming days for parts of the country, including Nairobi, according to the Kenya Meteorological Department. During a press briefing on Thursday, Kenyan Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua urged people in lower areas to move to higher ground in anticipation of the "above normal" rainfall.

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