Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen now says motorists who risk lives by crossing flooded roads or bridges will lose their driving licences and be prosecuted for attempted suicide.
With nearly half a million Kenyans in 93,432 households now affected by El Niño floods, the government on Wednesday sought to introduce new safety measures.
On Tuesday, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said that of the 98 people killed, 37 had "unnecessarily risked their lives" by crossing flooded sections of rivers or roads. Later on Tuesday, the government said the death toll from the floods had risen to 120.
“I want to put all our drivers on notice that should we find you crossing or having crossed a dangerously flooded road, we will cancel your licence and even prefer charges of attempted suicide against you,” said Murkomen in a statement.
“Do not be the reason why someone dies just because you want to rush to your next destination even when the roads are flooded. There is no hurry, you better be late for a week or even a month but save lives,” he added.
Government spokesman Isaac Mwaura, in a statement on behalf of the multi-agency command centre, said that while no deaths had been recorded since Tuesday, there had been an increase in outbreaks of diseases such as malaria, cholera and diarrhoea.
Garissa, Kwale, Madera and Wajir counties have recorded a total of 391 cases of diarrhoea, while Lamu County has recorded 94 cases of cholera.
“Increased cases of Malaria have been reported in Mandera County, 10 of which have been confirmed, while 539 remain suspected cases. The Ministry of Health continues to monitor the situation. In the rest of the country,10 counties including Isiolo, Samburu, Kwale, Homabay, Makueni, Tharaka Nithi, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Meru and Kisumu are on high alert,” announced Mwaura.
Speaking alongside Kello Harsama, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of EAC and ASALS, Mr Mwaura announced that the government has purchased 120,000 mosquito nets to stem the tide of malaria cases and distribution would begin on Thursday.
He also said that as part of the emergency response, the government on Wednesday distributed food to 11 counties including Mombasa, Kwale, Lamu, Tana River, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Busia, Kitui, Samburu and Isiolo.
The government is also currently pre-positioning food and non-food items in Tana River, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera counties, which have been most affected by the floods.
Mr Mwaura also announced that the government would soon disburse Sh625.8 million to help half a million people in Turkana, Mandera, Marsabit, Wajir, Samburu, Tana River, Garissa and Isiolo counties. The money will be disbursed under the Hunger and Safety Net Funds cash transfer programme.
“Displacement camps have been set up across the North Eastern and Coastal region with the distribution currently at 11 camps in Mandera, 16 camps in Wajir, 19 camps in Garissa and 35 camps in Tana River. An additional six camps have also been established in Kilifi, Makueni and Taita Taveta Counties bringing the number to 118 camps catering for the displaced,” announced Mr Mwaura.
“The rising levels of our dams also warrant caution and residents are advised to move to higher ground as the National Government Administrative Officers liaise with county governments to establish temporary shelters,” he added.
He also announced that heavy rainfall was expected to continue in the southern parts of the country, including Narok, Kajiado, Mombasa, Taita Taveta, Kwale, Kilifi, Migori, Bomet, Kericho, Kisii and Homa Bay counties.
Following damage to some road infrastructure, Mr Mwaura said the government was carrying out assessments to determine the cost of the damage. Since the rains began, roads have been rendered impassable in Garissa, Wajir, Tana River, Samburu, Marsabit and Turkana counties.
At the same time, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) has urged Kenyans planning to travel long distances or attend festivities to postpone their plans. They have also urged the government to be prudent in spending the funds allocated for the El Niño emergency response.
“We urge individuals and groups intending to embark on long trips and festivals to consider postponing their plans. This cautionary measure is essential, especially considering the heightened vulnerability of children and individuals facing adverse conditions. We advise Kenyans to take utmost care and not risk crossing any flooded areas. We can always wait a day or two,” said Rev Martin Kivuva, the KCCB Chairperson.
Mr Murkomen urged Kenyans living around the Masinga dam to move to higher ground, saying the dam was filling at a rate of 0.7 metres a day and had about seven metres left before it burst, posing a serious risk to people living nearby.
He also announced that road authorities and contractors have already been activated to rehabilitate roads washed away by the floods. Meanwhile, the Garissa airstrip, which has resumed flights, will be key to getting supplies to affected families.