Declare floods national disaster to tackle crisis

This is a humongous national catastrophe that calls for urgent measures. At least 20 people have been killed and property worth millions of shillings destroyed so far as flooding following heavy rains ravage the coastal, northeastern and central Kenya regions.

Indeed, the people’s worst fears over the El Nino deluge have come to pass. And the government is warning Kenyans to brace themselves for worse in the coming days. The government, which had initially tried to downscale the grave danger, has set aside Sh2.4 billion for related rescue operations.

The Interior and National Coordination ministry has mobilised disaster response units and security teams to carry out aerial and ground missions in flood-prone areas. The Kenya Coast Guard, National Police Service, Kenya Defence Forces and Kenya Wildlife Service are on high alert and the Kenya Red Cross Society is using helicopters to ferry food to victims.

Heavy rains have been pounding most of the country in the past week. The Kenya Meteorological Department says it is going to get worse and the downpours could extend well into next year. The number of affected counties has risen to 33 with many households displaced or marooned by the rains.

The people risk malaria, diarrhoea and cholera epidemics. They should be advised to move to safer higher ground until the flooding eases. Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has asked county governments to release funds to enable the prevention of deaths and destruction.

Some of the worst effects of the deluge have been witnessed in Mombasa, where roads and buildings were submerged. Also affected are Kwale, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Tana River, Meru, Busia, Homa Bay and many other counties.

Roads have been cut off and, as a result, it will be more difficult to supply relief food or evacuate those caught up in the crisis. The authorities should provide helicopters for emergency rescue operations and to supply food and drugs.

It is high time the floods were declared a national disaster. That will unlock the necessary resources to help the relevant parties to scale up relief assistance to all the affected people.