Kenya floods: Scores missing after weeks of

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Mai Mahiu, Kenya

At least 91 people are missing after heavy flooding across Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, the government said Tuesday, after weeks of heavy rain and flash floods ravaged parts of the country.

Some 76 people are missing after flooding near the hard hit town of Mai Mahiu, northwest of Nairobi. Locals and first responders told CNN the disaster was caused by water blowing through a clogged tunnel under a railway bridge. So far, 71 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the incident.

A further 10 people are missing in Kenya’s eastern region, four in Nairobi County and one in the coastal region, which borders the Indian Ocean, said Isaac Mwaura, a government spokesperson.

The floods have also led to the displacement of 190,942 Kenyans, which Mwaura said is around 5,000 more people than on Monday.

“Nairobi County is the worst hit with 147,000 fellow Kenyans being displaced and, therefore, it accounts for 77% of all the displacement in the country,” he said.

A CNN team on the ground said in one area of Mai Mahiu a strong smell led villagers to believe a body lay under a pile of uprooted trees and mud.

One resident, a motorbike taxi rider, who did not wish to be named, told CNN he had provided fuel for a power saw that was being used to cut down uprooted trees.

“Ask the government to send us excavators,” he said.

Kenyan President William Ruto has ordered the military to deploy personnel to help find missing people.

Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Residents gather at the river bed to search for missing people in Mai Mahiu on Monday.

The CNN team said a body of a young man was pulled out of the flood debris earlier on Tuesday in the same area after the ring of a mobile phone prompted neighbours to start digging. They say it took the residents hours of digging on Monday and Tuesday to be able to recover that body.

Mwaura said the government has set up 52 “displacement camps” – an increase of two since Monday – to provide those affected by the flooding “with alternative temporary accommodation.”

“The weather forecast from April 30 to May 6 indicates that rainfall is expected to continue over several parts of the country,” he said, which he warned ” threatens to exacerbate the ongoing floods.”

The government is “providing food and non-food items and offering rescue and evacuation,” Mwaura also noted.

Kenya has registered heavy rain since mid-March but downpours have intensified over the past week, leading to mass flooding which has killed dozens of people.

“Kenya is facing a worsening flood crisis due to the combined effects of El Niño and the ongoing March-May 2024 long rains,” IFRC Secretary General and CEO Jagan Chapagain said in a post on X, referring to the climate pattern that originates in the Pacific Ocean along the equator and impacts weather all over the world.

“Since November 2023, El Niño triggered devastating floods and river overflows, causing more than a hundred deaths and widespread damage.”

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The Horn of Africa, a region of East Africa that includes Kenya, is one of the most climate-vulnerable regions in the world. Heavy rains have also affected Tanzania and Burundi.

The impact of Kenya’s most recent rains also may have been worsened by falling on very hard, dry soils after years of catastrophic drought, which affected many parts of Kenya, killing livestock and crops and causing widespread hunger and water insecurity. This drought was made 100 times more likely by planet-heating pollution from fossil fuels, an April World Weather Attribution analysis found.

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