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Four dead as floods wreak havoc in Kenyan capital

By AFP - Apr 25,2024 - Last updated at Apr 25,2024

Pedestrians hang off the back of a public transport bus in Nairobi on Wednesday (AFP photo)

NAIROBI — Roads turned into gushing rivers and homes swamped by waist-high muddy waters: Storms and flash floods wreaked devastation across the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Wednesday, claiming at least four lives.

The East Africa region has been lashed by relentless downpours in recent weeks, as the El Nino weather pattern exacerbates the seasonal rainfall.

Across Nairobi, images posted by Kenyan media showed trucks, cars and motorbikes stuck in the deluge and people wading through floodwaters in slum areas of the city to try to reach safety.

An estimated 60,000 people, mostly women and children, have been “severely affected” by the flash floods, according to the Nairobi county governor’s office.

“Unfortunately we have lost four lives, and the search is on to locate six others who have been reported missing,” it said in a statement.

In one incident, police fired tear gas to try to disperse angry residents who had blocked a main highway with long queues of cars calling for government action over the floods.

Kenya Railways announced it was temporarily suspending commuter train services as a precautionary measure, while the roads authority said four roads in the capital had been partly closed. 

“The city is at a standstill because most roads are flooded,” said Uber driver Kelvin Mwangi.

“We are having to use longer routes and in some cases we can’t get to our destination.”

Homes were engulfed in the sprawling Nairobi slum of Mathare, where local media reports said residents were forced to sleep on rooftops overnight.

The Kenya Red Cross said it had rescued 18 people including seven children who were stranded in Mathare.

It posted a picture on X showing its workers, some waist-high in water, engaged in rescue efforts, as a man carried a young child on his shoulder.

In a dramatic rescue on Tuesday, Kenyan police said they had saved a five-year-old boy who had been marooned alone by floods in Machakos County south of the capital.

The youngster had been left behind by his father as the waters rose and was airlifted to safety by chopper, the National Police Service said on X.

The Red Cross said the Athi River, the second longest in Kenya that runs south of Nairobi to the Indian Ocean, had burst its banks, blocking roads and leaving residents stranded.

“Our response teams are on the ground in most of these areas, evacuating families to safety and providing other life-saving interventions,” it added.

Prominent opposition senator Edwin Sifuna said the situation in Nairobi had “escalated to extreme levels” and that the county authorities were “clearly overwhelmed”. 

“We need all national emergency services mobilised to save lives,” he said on X.

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