NAIROBI – At least 37 people have died in landslides in West Pokot County in northwestern Kenya following days of heavy rains, official sources said.
West Pokot County Commissioner Apollo Okello increased the death toll from 29 on Saturday, while a considerable number of people remained missing.
The mudslides on Saturday were a result of several days of intense downpours, and destroyed bridges, roads and houses in the villages of Tapach, Nyarkulian and Parua in Pokot South sub-county, and Tamkal in Pokot Central sub-county.
Raphael Pwolowo, a survivor from Nyarkulian, told Kenya’s Sunday Standard newspaper that everything was swallowed up by the land including entire houses, and he saw how four people – his parents and two siblings – buried alive, and was able to rescue one of his children.
So far, 15 bodies have been recovered, according to Okello, who said the search for another 22 missing people continued.
Late Saturday, the government announced the deployment of military and police helicopters to assist in rescue efforts and meet the immediate needs of affected families, given the difficulties in providing aid due to bad weather conditions and the destruction of infrastructures.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta offered his condolences to the affected families and said rescue operations will continue until all the missing have been found or accounted for.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Over the past two months, ceaseless torrential rains, mudslides and floods 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.
Episodes of torrential rains and flooding have also hit 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 have warned that the climate 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 in Africa: Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea.