Mai Mahiu tragedy: The pain of families whose relatives are still missing

Alex Nganga during an interview in Mai Mahiu on June 6, 2024. Two of his children are missing after the Mai Mahiu dam tragedy. 

Photo credit: Mercy Koskei | Nation Media Group

In the aftermath of April’s flash floods in Mai Mahiu, which killed 62 people, one man's anguish is taking a toll on him.

Alex Nganga’s world was torn apart on April 29 when flash floods mercilessly swept away his wife, Patricia Wanjiku, and their two children, Ruth Wangare, 13, and Ann Trizer Nganga, 5, at their home in Ruiru village.

Ruth was a junior secondary school student at Ngeya Primary School, while Trizer was in Grade One at a private school in Mai Mahiu town. 

Ruth Wangare,13.

Photo credit: Courtesy

While his wife's body was found and buried two weeks after the flooding incident, Nganga's two children remain missing to date.

The tragedy struck suddenly, catching the residents of Mai Mahiu off guard.

In an instant, homes were destroyed, families torn apart, and dreams shattered. As the community mourned the loss of 62 souls, Nganga embarked on a lonely journey to find closure.

For him, the loss of his two children in the tragedy was a blow from which he is yet to recover. 

The weeks that followed were marked by sleepless nights and endless days spent searching hospitals and morgues, clinging to the slightest glimmer of hope.

He said that the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and National Youth Service (NYS), who were dispatched to help in the search, combed through the debris and waded through the mud in search of any sign of his two children.

But despite their efforts, neither the government nor Mr Nganga's search has yielded results, with each dead end serving as a painful reminder of the loss and the uncertainty of his children's fate.

“I plead with the government to help me find their bodies so that I can give them a befitting send-off and have peace of mind. I barely sleep at night. Before the incident, I had a beautiful family. Now, I am a loner depending on people for survival,” he told Nation.Africa in an interview.

Before the tragedy struck, Nganga was a businessman in Mai Mahiu and says he led a simple yet fulfilling life to provide for his wife and their two children. But fate had a cruel twist for them on that fateful day. 

Recalling the incident, he said that after having dinner, they all retired to bed. The children slept in their room, only to be woken up by a loud bang at dawn. According to him, he tried saving his family but was overwhelmed by the raging waters, and that was the last time he saw them alive.

The events of the tragedy unfolded rapidly, leaving no time for Nganga to comprehend the magnitude of the disaster. He was rescued by his neighbours and rushed to the hospital. His wife’s body was retrieved two kilometres from their home.

But Ruth and Trizer were nowhere to be found.

“I was lucky that I was saved. I really tried, but it was not enough. I saw them being swept away and I could not do anything to help. My wife was buried two weeks after the incident. What remains is finding my children. I have been left with only memories,” said Nganga.

Describing his wife of fifteen years, he said she was hardworking, disciplined, and a homemaker who ensured that their family and business were running smoothly. 

“She was a good woman with a vision. She pushed me to work hard. We bought a piece of land and developed a six-bedroom house, but it was all brought down. Our motorbike was swept away. We were running our fruit business together. She loved going to church and prayed for us daily. I miss her,” he said.

The once vibrant spirit in Nganga has now been replaced by a hollow emptiness that grows with each passing day.

Yet, even in despair, he refuses to give up on his children.

Nganga has found solace in the support of friends, the community, the church, and even strangers.

Together, they have formed a network of resilience, united in their determination to rebuild their shattered lives.

But despite their best efforts, the harsh reality of their situation remains unchanged. He still believes the two will be found, but until then, he chooses to carry their memory in his heart, a reminder of the profound bond between a father and his children.

For Mr David Kamau, he is lucky to be alive.

His wife, Ann Mumbi, 27, perished, while his two children survived as they had visited their grandmother at the time of the incident.

Her body was found 23 days later, two kilometres from their home.

She was buried last week on Saturday in Mai Mahiu.

"We share the same tribulation with Mr Nganga. I lost my wife whom I loved so much. Her body took time before it was found. Even if I am still grieving, I always try to be there for him. He is really stressed," he said.

Naivasha police boss Stephen Kirui told Nation.Africa, the search was called off two weeks ago after the KDF and NYS personnel completed repairing damaged roads in the areas affected by the floods.

“Three people are still missing according to our records. We are still coordinating search efforts to trace them,” Mr Kirui said.