Mudslide kills 11 West Pokot

Shocked Gikoe village residents in Kiria-ini, Murang’a North district, at the scene of a landslide that killed a 16-year-old schoolgirl. Photo/PAUL WANJIRU

At least 11 people were killed in a massive mudslide in West Pokot Central district as rains pounded the North Rift region on Saturday.

The victims, most of them school children, were caught unawares at night when their houses were swept away by mudslides at Cheptulel village of Chesogon division.

Area councillor Simon Loitapel said 10 children, all from the same clan, and a woman were buried alive in the mudslide following an all-night downpour.

Eight of the children were pupils at Annet primary school; the other two were toddlers. “The eight were reading in a hut when they were swept away by the mud,” Mr Loitapel said. “We will evacuate another 100 who are in a risky area.”

He said that seven of the 15 villagers who were seriously injured were admitted to the Kapenguria district hospital, while the rest were treated and discharged.

District Commissioner Jeremiah Were and police officer David Wambua led a team of officers and Red Cross officials in a search for the bodies. They had walked over about 4 kilometres of muddy terrain to get to the scene.

“It’s true that some people have died in a mudslide, and we are heading there to ascertain the actual number of the dead,’’ Mr Wambua said.

By the time we went to press, the rescue operation was still underway in the village about 200 kilometres from Kapenguria town.

Two years ago eight people were killed by mudslides at Parua and Tapach areas in the same district.

West Pokot Red Cross chairman Reuben Nyris, who was also travelling to the scene, appealed for medical, food and any other assistance. “Our people on the ground have told us that 11 children and a woman have died in a landslide and we are heading there,” he said.

In Murang’a North district, a 16-year-old girl was killed and three families left homeless in two separate landslides.

In the first incident, a Standard Seven girl at Gikoe primary school, Mary Wairimu, died when the house in which she was sleeping collapsed after being hit by a large mass of soil.

In the second, two houses were destroyed in a mudslide shortly after midnight. The incident followed heavy rains the previous night.

In another development, retired President Moi expressed concern over the increase in the number of people dying due to floods in various parts of the country.

He called on the government to ensure the safety of its citizens, especially schoolchildren during the rainy season.

Swimming in dam

He cited as an example last Wednesday’s incident in which a Form Four student at Kituro high school in Baringo district drowned while swimming.

He was among about 30 students who had gone swimming at the nearby Kirandich dam after doing their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination biology practical paper. But he was overwhelmed by the large volume of water following heavy rains.

Mr Moi criticised the school authorities for not guaranteeing the students’ safety. “How can someone go swimming in a dam which supplies water for home consumption?” he asked.
“This is a restricted place which ought to have been fenced.”

Parents were not spared blame. The former head of state said they had abdicated their responsibility to discipline their children.

“This has also contributed to the increase in road accidents due to underage drinking,” he said. He was addressing mourners during the burial of Ms Clara Ngochoch, his late wife’s close friend, at Seguton in Baringo district.