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NAIROBI: Pedestrians hang off the back of a matatu (public transport bus) to avoid having to wade across a flooded section of road after a stream burst it's banks overnight following heavy seasonal rain in the Kenyan capital on April 24, 2024. - AFP
NAIROBI: Pedestrians hang off the back of a matatu (public transport bus) to avoid having to wade across a flooded section of road after a stream burst it's banks overnight following heavy seasonal rain in the Kenyan capital on April 24, 2024. - AFP
Floods wreak havoc in Nairobi
At least 4 killed as homes swamped by muddy waters

NAIROBI: Roads turned into gushing rivers and homes swamped by waist-high muddy waters: storms and flash floods wreaked devastation across the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Wednesday, claiming at least four lives. The East Africa region has been lashed by relentless downpours in recent weeks, as the El Nino weather pattern exacerbates the seasonal rainfall.

Across Nairobi, images posted by Kenyan media showed trucks, cars and motorbikes stuck in the deluge and people wading through floodwaters in slum areas of the city to try to reach safety. An estimated 60,000 people, mostly women and children, have been “severely affected” by the flash floods, according to the Nairobi county governor’s office. “Unfortunately we have lost four lives, and the search is on to locate six others who have been reported missing,” it said in a statement.

In one incident, police fired tear gas to try to disperse angry residents who had blocked a main highway with long queues of cars calling for government action over the floods. Kenya Railways announced it was temporarily suspending commuter train services as a precautionary measure, 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.”

Marooned boy rescued

Homes were engulfed in the sprawling Nairobi slum of Mathare, where local media reports said residents were forced to sleep on rooftops overnight. The Kenya Red Cross said it had rescued 18 people including seven children who were 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 south 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. “Our response teams are on the ground in most of these areas, evacuating families to safety and providing other life-saving interventions,” it added.

‘Extreme’ situation

Prominent opposition senator Edwin Sifuna said the situation in Nairobi had “escalated to extreme levels” and that the county authorities were “clearly overwhelmed”. “We need all national emergency services mobilized to save lives,” he said on X. UN humanitarian response agency OCHA had said on Friday that rains and floods had claimed the lives of at least 32 people in Kenya and forced more than 40,000 from their homes in almost half the country’s counties.

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, where late last year more than 300 people died in torrential rains and floods in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia after the region suffered 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. The Horn of Africa is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change — even though the continent’s contribution to global carbon emissions is a fraction of the total. – AFP

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