Flash floods leave trail of death and destruction in West Pokot
What you need to know:
- Displaced families now have no food and shelter and are braving the chilly weather conditions in the open
- Residents are in dire need of food, clean water, mosquito nets, and medical supplies
- West Pokot Governor Simon Kachapin visited the affected areas on Sunday and said Ortum market was sitting on a time bomb after residents cut trees on the hills
- Mr Kachapin noted that they have mapped hotspot areas
A woman was killed and Ortum market and several villages in Batei and Weiwei wards in Pokot Central sub-county of West Pokot county were swept away by flash floods, following a heavy downpour, leaving destruction and displaced families in its wake.
Families have been displaced and rendered homeless in highland areas in the county after their homes were submerged in flood water. The water destroyed and property, with victims trying to salvage household items.
Displaced families now have no food and shelter and are braving the chilly weather conditions in the open.
Residents are in dire need of food, clean water, mosquito nets, and medical supplies.
The woman was killed at Muino, and lightning struck a child at Siyoi in Kapenguria on Friday. The floods also destroyed buildings at Chemutlokotyo and Tamkal secondary schools.
At Ortum market on the Kitale-Lodwar highway, raging floods swept through Kerelwa, Kokotendwo, and Muino areas.
An old man was rescued from his home and a motorcycle carried away in the floods was found many kilometres away.
Affected residents who are camping at a school have urged the county and national governments and other organisations to supply them with bedding, food, and other essential items since they moved from their homes.
"Our biggest problem is food. The floods have brought mosquitoes. We also need clean water and medication, especially for young children,” said Ms Milan Nekesa, a shopkeeper who lost everything at Ortum market.
“The floods started at 11pm and I almost drowned with my children. I had noticed the water levels rise but I didn’t expect them to rise to this extent. This time around, the disaster team should ensure we are settled before the situation worsens,” she said.
Ticking time bomb
West Pokot Governor Simon Kachapin visited the on Sunday and said Ortum market was sitting on a time bomb after residents cut trees on the hills.
“We have put measures in place to save locals by planting trees in landslide-prone areas, and we urge residents to plant more trees to help in holding soil and rocks. The only solution left is afforestation so that we can escape these calamities,” he said.
The county boss said his administration would reclaim Muino, Kamatira, and other forests invaded by people.
“We have mobilised construction machinery, which is already on the ground, clearing the roads affected,” said Mr Kachapin.
“All the crops cultivated in the area have been swept off, leaving the community vulnerable to hunger and waterborne diseases. I urge all the relevant departments, organisations, and the national government, together with the religious fraternity to come and help the affected households with food and other necessities,” he said.
An onion trader at Ortum market, Mr Sigara, said all his stock, for which he took a bank loan, was spoiled.
“I don’t know what to do, the onions have started rotting. We have no houses, food, or property. So I call for the government’s immediate intervention,” said Mr Sigara.
Access cut off
Access to most villages has been cut off, shops swept away and roads rendered impassable. Families and traders are now appealing for humanitarian aid.
Mr Kachapin noted that they have mapped hotspot areas.
“Most of the families affected cannot go back to their homes because the rains are persistent and the loose soil is dangerous, which might result in catastrophe,” he said.
The governor said the county government has trained Disaster Risk Reduction committees and dispatched them to villages and do sensitisation through local radio stations and social media.
“We are also using community disease reporters to give them reports as we work on long-term solutions to prevent this tragedy from periodic recurrence,” he said, urging people living in areas prone to flooding and landslides to move to safer ground until the situation is under control.
“Huge logs and heavy stones have blocked roads. We might lose the whole market. A fuel tank at a petrol station has been swept away. We are now assessing the damage,” said Mr Kachapin.
In 2020, more than 50 people died and 1,500 were displaced in Chesegon following flash floods and landslides.
In 2019, more than 20 people died in landslide, and more were displaced in the villages of Muino, Nyarkulian, and Parua.
In both incidents, there was massive destruction of property.
Deputy Governor Robert Komolle said the flooding is a blow to the county’s economy because it has affected transport and trade.
“The crisis has dealt a blow to business, transportation of goods and passengers due to frequent delays,” he said.
He also said rivers carry big volumes of water from the hills, forcing people to wait for many hours before they can cross.