Mai Mahiu tragedy
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Cloud of grief shrouds Mai Mahiu as floods claim 48 lives

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Some of those who died in the Mai Mahiu tragedy on April 29, 2024.

Photo credit: Pool

As the sun set in Mai Mahiu’s Jerusalem and Kamuchiri villages on Tuesday, a mournful and subdued atmosphere covered the neighbourhoods following the deaths of 48 people in flash floods.

Family members were coming to terms with the devastating loss of relatives and property, beginning the arduous task of picking up the shattered pieces of their lives, one fragment at a time.

Aerial view of the gulley that caused Maai Mahiu tragedy

By Tuesday afternoon, the slowly receding flood waters revealed the painful truth of 48 people swept away and the damage caused by the unforgiving torrential currents.

One family suffered the tragic loss of four loved ones, leaving a void too deep to fill. The family of Naomi Wanjiru, a resident of Ngong in Kajiado County, is yet to come to terms with the huge loss.

Wanjiru says she received a phone call from her elder sister at 4 am on Monday informing her about the tragedy. She learnt that some family members were missing.

Maai Mahiu tragedy: Search for 40 missing people continues

She said that three family members; her mother and two sisters, were rescued. During the time of the incident, there were 11 people in the house — four adults and seven children.

The family acquired the piece of land and built the house near a bridge before the unfortunate incident.

Those who died are Wanjiru’s sister Elizabeth Mugure,16, her nephews Owen Kimani, 3, Ivan Njoroge, 8 months and niece Mary Muthoni, 4.

 Those missing are siblings Blessing Muthoni, 8, Lewis Ngige,1, Ann Muthoni (Kimani’s sister), 4, who are Wanjiru’s nieces and nephew as well as her sister-in-law Isaac Muthoni, 28.

“My mother was admitted to Naivasha Sub-County Hospital and is responding well to treatment. My sister was at Mai Mahiu Hospital and was discharged but she was rushed to hospital after her condition worsened," she said.

Maai Mahiu

Men salvage a motorbike from sludge in Mai Mahiu in Naivasha, Nakuru County on April 29, 2024. 

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi | Nation Media Group

For David Kinyanjui, Monday's events will forever linger in his mind.

The loss of his nine-year-old son continues to haunt him.

Living just meters from the river, Kinyanjui was abruptly awakened by the loud floods, catching him and his two children off guard as they slept.

Amidst the chaos, his daughter's frantic cries pierced through the night, signalling the impending danger.

Together, they sought refuge, but the relentless waters overpowered them. Kinyanjui was injured while his children were swept away.

"My daughter, a secondary school student, was swept away by water as was my son. After the water subsided, I went to look for them. I found my daughter holding onto a tree. I called for help and she was rescued,” he said.

"We spent the entire day searching for my son, but he was not found. I described his features to the rescue and search team. I told them that he had a mark on the chest resembling the map of Kenya. To my shock, they told me that his body was found downstream trapped in the mud and had been taken to the mortuary,” he said.

Aftermath of Kijabe Dam burst incident in Kamuchiri Village in Mai Mahiu

Kinyanjui’s home, once a place of solace, now lies in ruins, along with their livelihoods and cherished memories.

His five-bedroom house was brought down, more than 900 chickens and 20 pigs were swept away by the raging waters.

Only 20 chickens and four pigs remain.

Red Cross

Red Cross officials and NYS officers search for more bodies in Mai Mahiu Naivasha, Nakuru County on April 30, 2024. 

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi | Nation Media Group

Kinyanjui said that his wife and their younger son had travelled upcountry to visit an ailing relative last Friday, surviving the tragedy.

They were to return on Sunday but his wife called him to inform him that she had opted to travel on Monday instead after the condition of the patient worsened.

"I have nowhere to go, I have been left homeless. All household items were swept away. My source of livelihood was swept away. I appeal to the government to help us rebuild our lives," said Kinyanjui.

Another victim, Mary Wanjiku, 34, said that they were woken up by a loud bang and they scampered for safety.

Survivor of Maai Mahiu tragedy narrates what happened

Wanjiku was in the house with her three children. The children were swept away by water; two were rescued but her youngest, Blessings Mumbi, 4, was not so lucky.

Wanjiku, who sustained injuries on her forehead and left leg, also lost her mother-in-law Agnes Nyambura, her sister Lucy Njeri and her niece Ruth Njeri,14.

 Wanjiku was among the families that received counselling and identified the bodies of their loved ones at the disaster centre yesterday.

 Grishon Waiganjo, yet another victim, is among the many distraught residents grappling with the aftermath of Monday's tragedy.

 Waiganjo recounts the heart-wrenching loss of his son, Njenga Waiganjo. His body was later found entangled in a tree trunk.

Maai Mahiu

Residents walk in search of missing people after heavy flash floods wiped out several homes when a dam burst, following heavy rains in Kamuchiri village of Mai Mahiu, Nakuru County, Kenya April 29, 2024.

Photo credit: Thomas Mukoya | Reuters

 Despite being discharged from Mai Mahiu Hospital after treatment, Waiganjo now faces the daunting task of rebuilding his shattered life. He lost everything.

 Standing amidst the remnants of what was his home, Waiganjo's anguish is palpable. His family is now displaced, and their lives are forever altered by the tragedy.

“My wife, our sons and I were sleeping when the unfortunate incident happened. One of the children was swept away and was luckily saved a few meters from our home. However, the other one died. Where I am standing was our home two days ago, now we are homeless," he said.

Waiganjo identified his son's body at the Naivasha Sub-County Hospital mortuary.

Similarly, Jecinta Nyambura, who is nursing injuries at the Ngeya disaster centre, shares a harrowing tale of survival after she was rescued by neighbours as she fought against the raging waters.

Tragically, she lost her son in the chaos — a painful reality she must now endure — as she prays for her hospitalised daughter to recover.

In the wake of the devastating tragedy, counsellors have emerged as pillars of support, extending their aid to survivors and those who have lost their loved ones, by offering emotional support to the affected families.

The Kenya Red Cross Society has donated a mobile refrigerator that can hold 40 bodies.

An official of Kenya Red Cross South Rift region, Mr Felix Maiyo, said the mobile mortuary will be stationed at a local funeral home in Maai Mahiu.

Speaking at Ngeiya Girls Secondary School, where a camp has been set up for displaced families, Mr Maiyo said the mobile mortuary will help preserve bodies as the numbers soared.

He said that so far they have registered 293 displaced people, and recorded 84 missing persons. Families have been able to identify 34 bodies.

He said that during the rescue operation that began yesterday at 9 am, bodies that were still trapped in debris were retrieved.