Death and destruction as floods ravage the country

Graceland estate

Rescue teams evacuate residents from their home at the Flooded Graceland estate in Athi River on April 24, 2024, after heavy rainfall overnight.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Azimio leader Raila Odinga wants the government to declare the current floods situation a national disaster.
  • In Kasarani, two people, including a boda boda rider, were swept away after River Majimazuri burst its banks.

  • The Kenya Red Cross also indicated that many parts of the city are severely affected by the adverse weather conditions.

Six people were swept away by raging floods after torrential rains pounded Kenya’s capital city on Tuesday night.

This even as President William Ruto on Wednesday directed the formation of a multi-agency response team to deal with raging floods in the country.

Floods wreak havoc following heavy down pour in Kamulu

The orders came after a meeting with leaders from counties and regions affected by the ongoing heavy rains. “I direct the ministries of Interior and EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development, and the National Youth Service to immediately respond to the situation caused by the floods. They will immediately step up multi-agency response efforts,” Dr Ruto said.

At the same time, Azimio leader Raila Odinga wants the government to declare the current floods situation a national disaster.

Graceland Estate, Athi River

Red Cross workers rescue residents of Graceland Estate, Athi River, by boat on April 24, 2024. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Addressing the media last evening at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation, Mr Odinga said the assessment done by the Azimio team in Nairobi alone shows that the county government’s response team has been overwhelmed.

“It is our urgent appeal that the President and government hereby declare the floods a national disaster and immediately activate all emergency mechanisms, including military disaster response teams,” Mr Odinga said.

The Opposition leader stated that Azimio MPs have collected Sh1 million to alleviate the situation in Nairobi slums.

Among the dead include a woman, who after rescuing her child, was prompted to go back and pick something, but drowned after a wall collapsed around Mabatini 4A area in Mathare.

Athi-Sabaki-Galana River breaks its banks

 “People died and there was nothing that we could do to rescue them, we saw our friends being submerged. We don’t know what to do here if the situation continues,” one of the residents said.

Downstream, two more bodies were lying waiting for police officers to pick them as the people who recovered the bodies confirmed that one had earlier been picked up by the police.

In Kasarani, two people, including a boda boda rider, were swept away after River Majimazuri burst its banks.

Six others are yet to be located, according to Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja.

Locals were left stranded after floods submerged Namanga Road on April 24, 2024.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

He said more than 60,000 people, mostly women and children, have been severely affected following the devastating flash floods that hit the city.

Graceland Estate, Athi River

Floodwater maroons homes at Graceland Estate, Athi River, on April 24, 2024. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

 “The search is on to locate six others who have been reported missing,” he said during a press conference yesterday.

In the last three days, more than a dozen people in Nairobi have lost their lives in floods while thousands have been affected.

Thousands of people were forced to move out of their houses for safety, leaving behind their marooned houses.

For the better part of yesterday, major city roads were submerged, leading to heavy traffic snarl-ups with businesses being disrupted as traders counted losses due to impassable roads.

Besides the city's poor drainage system, some of the waterways were blocked by construction sites, which redirected flood waters to estates, causing extensive damage.

Lodwar residents urge government to fix drainage system

The city boss attributed the calamity to encroachment of riparian lands, saying the county has currently halted all approvals for development.

 “We shall not allow any development upstream to affect lives downstream until we review all those that have been issued,” he said.

Motorists drive through a flooded section of the Kahawa Sukari exit on Thika road after heavy rains.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

With the help of the police, the county chief said they will use force to bring down all buildings built on river banks and other wetland areas in Nairobi.

“Nothing will be spared no matter who they belong to. We will just have to use force because it is about saving lives,” said Mr Sakaja.

The inundated roads forced the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) to announce the partial closure of some roads in the county.

The closed roads are Aerodrome Road, Kapenguria Road, UN Avenue in Runda and Kasarani-Mwiki Road at Mwiki Bridge.

"Motorists are also warned of flooding along Mombasa Road at Cabanas, Thika Road at Githurai/Kahawa Bridge. Traffic police and our technical teams are on the ground directing traffic and ensuring the safety of motorists,” Kura said.

The only bridge along Namanga road, linking the road to Mombasa road, was completely submerged as the river turned into a flowing sea.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

 At the same time, the traffic department also announced the closure of Kibiko Road in Ngong due to flooding. In the warning, motorists were asked to avoid Lunga Lunga Road around KPLC depot, Kahawa Sukari Road, Limuru Road, Kamiti Road and Lower Kabete Road around Red Hill area.

Motorists have also been urged to exercise caution on the roads and avoid driving through flooded areas to avoid accidents.

"Even if your route isn't listed here, beware of the possibility of flooding and fallen debris on other roads. Drive carefully in wet conditions or find an alternative route," the police said.

The Kenya Red Cross also indicated that many parts of the city are severely affected by the adverse weather conditions.

They include Mukuru, Mathare, Huruma, Ruaraka, Baba Dogo, Bosnia, Umoja 3, Chokaa, Njiru, Ruai, Utawala, Githurai, Kahawa, Eastern Bypass, Kinoo, Kijabe, Limuru, Ruiru, Graceland, Joska, Kaswito, Kicheko, Mangili, Kenyatta Road, Juja, Kitengela and Magadi.

In the meantime, Kenya Railways announced the suspension of all commuter train services in various parts of Nairobi.

In a public notice, the operator said it had been forced to suspend operations at Nairobi Central Railway Station as large sections of the track remained under water.

 “We are compelled to take these precautionary measures because the safety of our customers is always of paramount importance to us,” the corporation said.

In Machakos, a body of a middle-aged man from Nyaani village in Kinanie was retrieved from Athi River after he was swept away in the morning as he tried to retrieve a tyre.

According to Machakos County Executive for Agriculture and Food Security Joel Nzomo, a total of 7,000 residents have been affected by the floods.

 Unrelenting rain in West Pokot is also feared to have killed two siblings after they were swept away by a swollen River Chemorin in Tapach, West Pokot County, on Tuesday.

Commuters were stranded on Wednesday morning. 

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

By the time of going to press, efforts to save the pupils from Chemoril Primary School were on course as local authorities and emergency response teams combed the riverbanks and surrounding areas.

County Commissioner Khaliff Abdulahi however raised concerns over the treacherous conditions of meanders, huge rocks and the depth of the river, saying it had slowed the search mission.

 “We are doing everything possible to assist in the search and rescue operation," he said.

Days of relentless rains have also deepened humanitarian crisis in areas around the Lake Region, Rift Valley, Mt Kenya and coastal parts of the country.

The raging waters have displaced thousands of families, swept away livestock, destroyed farmlands and infrastructures and rendered roads impassable.

Damaged roads in Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties have made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to access the marooned villagers.

The people living in makeshift camps are in dire need of relief support such as food and non-food items and lack access to healthcare and proper sanitation.

 Unless urgent intervention measures are taken, the families have expressed fears of a possible outbreak of waterborne diseases like diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid.

“People are living in pathetic conditions and we are facing an impending disaster,” complained Rachael Jeptoo, a displaced resident from Marakwet East.

More than 400 families have been edged out of their homes in the North Rift with Lodwar having the highest number of those affected at 360 households after river levels swelled to unprecedented levels.

The heavy rains in Lodwar town caused poor drainage as shops, houses and hotels at Kawalase, California, Napetet and Soweto villages near River Kawalase were submerged.

Turkana County residents living in the low-lying areas of River Kerio, Lake Turkana and other seasonal rivers in Turkana West and Lokichoggio sub-counties are also counting losses after flash floods swept away household items and livestock.

Kenya Red Cross North Rift regional manager Oscar Okumu said public health management and risk communication teams are collaborating with community emergency teams to address emerging challenges.

 “We are working on a preventive approach system where families in flood-prone areas are being sensitised on how to maintain a high level of hygiene and proper sanitation to cushion against outbreaks of waterborne and contagious diseases,” he said.

In Trans Nzoia County, the chairperson of Nyumba Kumi in Waitaluk village, Kiminini Sub-County John Kidula has cautioned residents on the possibility of the Nzoia River bursting its banks.

Kenya Red Cross Trans Nzoia County Chairman Ronald Masindano said a multi-sectoral team is on high alert for floods in several mapped areas.

Residents living along River Sabwani in Namanjalala are, however, hopeful that the heavy rains will not overwhelm the dyke built to prevent floods in the region.

Graceland Estate, Athi River

Residents wade through floodwater at Graceland Estate, Athi River, on April 24, 2024. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Kisumu County on Wednesday embarked on an urgent intervention after the lakeside city witnessed flooding that affected a number of neighbourhoods, including Lakewood Apartment in Nyalenda B Ward.

City Manager Abala Wanga said they have commenced desiltation of major rivers to mitigate the devastating impact of flooding in the city.

The initiative targets to clear River Nyamasaria and River Alendu which are experiencing unhindered overflow.

In Machakos, 80 households in Graceland estate were woken up by the raging floods at 5am on Wednesday after the Athi River broke its banks.

Mr Karanja Kamande, a resident, said the incident caught many of them unaware as the water within the houses gradually increased covering up to two floors in some homes within the location.

 “The river broke its banks in the morning and within no time, there was water everywhere. We have tried to rescue some residents, but most of them have lost their furniture and other goods,” Mr Karanja said.

Mt Kenya residents also suffered after seven families were displaced at Likii estate after River Nanyuki burst its banks following a heavy downpour upstream.

For the first time in a decade, the river which drains into River Ewaso Ng'iro broke its banks.

 “The last time we witnessed such a scenario was in 2011. The cause of these floods is the heavy rains in Mt Kenya forest," said Phineas Mwenda, a resident.

In Nakuru County, residents of Elburgon experienced destruction of their maize plantations during Tuesday night’s heavy rainfall. In Kapkures area, families are counting losses after their houses and properties were destroyed following a heavy downpour accompanied by strong winds.

In Nyandarua’s Gathara Ward, locals affected by floods received food and other donations from the Woman Representative Faith Gitau.

Reporting by Victor Raballa, Ndubi Muturi, Barnabas Bii, Sammy Lutta, Evans Jaola, Mercy Koskei, Waikwa Maina, John Njoroge, Hillary Kimuyu, Kevin Cheruiyot and Mwangi Ndirangu