Thursday, October 29, 2009

Flash flooding in Kenya

After going months without a single drop, Kenya is now receiving too much rain. Heavy downpours are causing flash floods and is forcing people to flee their homes.

From IRIN, we read more about the next humanitarian situation in Kenya.

After days of heavy rain, flash floods in Kenya's coastal Magarini district have displaced at least 500 families, sweeping away houses and livestock, officials said.

Most of the affected families were from Kurawa and Kanagoni villages in Magarini. Many have already sought alternative shelter, with some heading to a camp for the displaced along the Malindi-Garissa highway.

John Manasseh, a local leader, told IRIN on 28 October: "We had assumed that since the rains were delayed at the beginning of the year, we would not experience any flooding. We even started cultivating our farms in readiness for the rain, but it seems we were all wrong."

Most of the coastal region has been dry, having not had rains since early 2009. In August, the Kenya Meteorological Department warned that the country could soon experience El Niño-related enhanced rainfall. Already, heavy rains have been reported in many parts of the country, with Coast Province being the latest to experience flooding.

The Magarini flash floods occurred a day after two people reportedly died in Kolongoni village in neighbouring Kilifi district, after a house in which they were sleeping collapsed after a downpour, crushing them.

Jillo Galgalo, one of those displaced by the floods in Magarini, said they lacked clean water for domestic use and were at risk of infection from waterborne diseases.

"Most pit latrines have been washed away because nobody expected any floods to occur this soon," Galgalo said. "We are in dire need of clean water because most water points are now filled with all sorts of waste, including human waste and cow dung."

Along with the neighbouring Tana River district - where roads connecting the towns of Mombasa, Garissa and Lamu have been cut off due to the rains - roads in Kilifi have not been spared, with most roads connecting local trading centres impassable.

Security issues

At least 100 trucks and passenger vehicles plying several routes along the north coast region have either become stuck in mud or were parked by the roadside. Most of the drivers, especially those on the Malindi-Garissa route, have expressed concern over possible bandit attacks.

"Our main concern is security, keeping in mind the number of times we've had cases of fellow drivers being attacked by armed bandits in recent times," Abdalla Musa, a truck driver, said.

However, the Tana Delta district commissioner, Ireri Ngatia, said the government would provide security for all drivers using the route.

Ngatia and his Magarini counterpart, Richard Kananu, have also appealed to residents living in low-lying areas to move to higher ground.

Meanwhile, the Kenya Red Cross Society and other humanitarian organizations are assessing the situation and preparing to start providing the necessary assistance.

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