NAIROBI – At least 29 people died early Saturday morning when they were buried under separate landslides in West Pokot County in northwest Kenya after days of intense rain, official sources reported Saturday.
“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,” Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i said in a statement.
Around 2:30 am, the floods began washing away homes, bridges, animals and humans, and the death toll threatens rise because the number of missing persons is not yet known.
“The government has deployed military and police helicopters to increase the rescue effort and meet the immediate needs of affected families,” Matiang’i said, while noting the difficulties of providing aid because of the bad weather conditions and the destruction of infrastructures.
For his part, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta offered his condolences to the families in distress and recalled that disaster rescue teams have joined the National Police and the army in rescue operations.
“My thoughts and prayers, and those of our entire nation are with families, friends, and relatives of those who lost their beloved ones in the unfortunate incident,” Uhuru said in a statement.
“To those whose loved ones are yet to be found, I assure you that the ongoing multi-agency rescue operation will continue until after every missing person is accounted for,” the Kenya head of state added.
Over the past two months, ceaseless torrential rains, mudslides and floods, above all in northern Kenya, have left at least 48 people dead and affected another 144,000, according to a report issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Episodes of torrential rains and flooding are also repeated in Somalia – where tens of thousands of people have been forcibly displaced – and South Sudan, which now has close to a million people affected, according to various NGOs.
Ecologists, NGOs and members of the scientific community warn that the climate-change crisis has increased the frequency and danger of many extreme meteorological phenomena like droughts, desertification, floods and storms.
Of the 10 countries in the world most threatened by climate change, seven are African: Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea.