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Nairobi, Kenya floods: Dozens killed after dam bursts near Mai Mahiu as weeks of heavy rain devastate region

Larry Madowo/CNN

A CNN team on the ground in Kenya’s Rift Valley town of Mai Mahiu saw overturned vehicles, uprooted trees and homes that had been swept away by massive flooding.


Nairobi, Kenya
CNN

At least 35 people killed and dozens more missing after a dam burst in southern Kenya, sweeping away homes and vehicles as the country grapples with weeks of heavy rains and flash floods devastating.

A CNN team on the ground in Kenya’s Rift Valley town of Mai Mahiu saw overturned vehicles, uprooted trees and homes that had been swept away by massive flooding.

CNN saw damage in one of the worst-hit areas of the floods in Nakuru County, northwest Kenya, which extended several kilometers in all directions. A distraught man told CNN he feared several members of his family were still buried under mud and debris.

Rescue teams are searching through mud and debris to try to find survivors near Mai Mahiu, Governor Susan Kihika told CNN, warning that the death toll could rise significantly.

The incident comes as floods have inundated large swaths of Kenya, killing at least 103 people and forcing thousands from their homes since March, government spokesman Isaac Maigua Mwaura said on Monday.

Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

A man uses a stick to cross a river after heavy flash floods destroyed several houses when a dam burst, following heavy rains in the Kamuchiri village of Mai Mahiu, Nakuru County, Kenya, on April 29, 2024.

In Mai Mahiu, Kihika said a serious situation was developing as floodwaters swept away people and homes.

“We are trying to get the situation under control but it is a bit overwhelming but we are doing our best, especially to reach those who were swept away because we hope some are still alive,” Kihika said.

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Access to Mai Mahiu, 32 kilometers north of the capital Nairobi, was difficult because part of the road was cut due to recent heavy rains, Kihika said. Crews are clearing debris while trying to reach survivors and remove bodies, she added.

On Monday, the Kenya Red Cross Society said several people had been taken to a health center in Mai Mahiu due to flash floods that hit Kamuchiri village.

“Floodwaters are believed to be coming from a nearby river that has burst its banks,” the group said.

Kenya has recorded heavy rains since mid-March, but downpours have intensified over the past week, leading to massive flooding.

“Kenya faces a worsening flood crisis due to the combined effects of El Niño and ongoing long rains from March to May 2024,” said IFRC Secretary General and CEO Jagan Chapagain . said in a post on, referring to the climate pattern that originates in the Pacific Ocean along the equator and impacts weather patterns around the world. “Since November 2023, El Niño has triggered devastating floods and river overflows, causing more than a hundred deaths and considerable damage. »

André Kasuku/AP

A man is seen in floodwaters near a submerged church, after the Tana River overflowed following heavy rains in Mororo, Kenya on Sunday April 28.

The Horn of Africa, a region of East Africa that includes Kenya, is one of the most climate-vulnerable regions in the world – exposed to increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events.

Although precipitation is expected to decrease across the region as a whole, as the world warms, the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation is expected to increase because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture.

Edwin Waita/Reuters

A drone view shows damaged houses after heavy flash floods destroyed several houses when a dam burst, following heavy rains in the Kamuchiri village of Mai Mahiu, Nakuru County, Kenya, on April 29, 2024.

The deadly rains that hit the Horn of Africa late last year, which killed at least 300 people, were about twice as intense as they would have been without climate change, according to an analysis carried out in December by scientists from the World Weather Attribution (WWA). ) initiative.

The rains follow years of catastrophic drought, the worst in at least four decades, which has affected many parts of Kenya, killing livestock and crops, and causing widespread famine and water insecurity. This drought was made 100 times more likely by global warming pollution from fossil fuels, according to an April WWA analysis.

Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

A view shows a damaged passenger bus stuck on a fallen tree after heavy flash floods destroyed several houses when a dam burst, following heavy rains in Kamuchiri village of Mai Mahiu, Nakuru County, Kenya April 29, 2024. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Some 131,450 people have been affected by floods which have swept across almost half of Kenya.

Images and videos from hard-hit Nairobi show people stranded on rooftops or salvaging what they can from homes destroyed by flash floods.

Another video shows extensive flooding around the Tana River, with much of the surrounding area under water. Roads, buildings and vehicles are submerged.

The Ministry of Education announced on Monday that all primary and secondary schools would postpone the start of the school year by one week, until May 6.

On Sunday, the Kenya Red Cross Society said 23 people were rescued and others were missing after a boat capsized in Kona Punda while heading to Mororo, Tana River County, Sunday.

On Friday, the group said it had rescued more than 300 people since the rains began in March.

Heavy rains in East Africa also affected Tanzania and Burundi. Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said on Thursday that at least 155 people had been killed by flooding in the country.

CNN’s Laura Paddison contributed to this report.



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