Heavy rain in Kenya affects tens of thousands, disrupts cargo


Workers diverting rain water at a flooded petrol station along Limuru Road on October 17, 2023.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Kenya has said tens of thousands of people across the country had been impacted by heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides that had also interrupted cargo services at Mombasa port.

The Horn of Africa has experienced intense rainfall linked to the El Nino weather phenomenon in recent weeks that has claimed dozens of lives, including at least 46 in various parts of Kenya.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said at least 80,000 households in Kenya had been affected "with numbers rising every day".

He said the government was responding to "save our people" including with helicopters and other emergency services to deliver aid and rescue marooned families. 

"This situation has continued to threaten lives," he said in a statement issued Sunday, urging the public to avoid floodwaters and evacuate homes in low-lying areas.

The prolonged rainfall was expected to extend into the first quarter of next year, he added.

Officials said nine people have died in the coastal region since last week including two passengers in a car belonging to the Kenya Revenue Authority that was swept off a flooded bridge in Kwale County on Friday morning.

"A multi-agency team led by the Kenya Coast Guard Service is on scene trying to retrieve the bodies," the interior ministry said Sunday. 

Kenya Railways said floods and landslides had caused an "unexpected delay" in deliveries to Mombasa port and along the cargo rail line to Nairobi.

"Consequently, this has affected normal train operations, including cargo transfers, loading as well as offloading activities at the Port of Mombasa," the state-owned railway said in a statement on Saturday posted on X, formerly Twitter.

A landslide in one section of the line between Mombasa and Nairobi had resulted in "the closure of that section for all freight trains" but limited passenger services were still moving, it added.

Mombasa, the country's second-largest city, and its port and railway cargo line serve not just Kenya but also landlocked neighbours including Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda.

British charity Save the Children on Thursday said more than 100 people, including 16 children, had died and over 700,000 been forced out of their homes in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia due to flash flooding.

The number of people displaced by heavy rains and floods in Somalia "has nearly doubled in one week" to 649,000, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said in its latest figures issued on Saturday.