Severe drought turns to severe floods killing hundreds in East Africa

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Nairobi: Severe flooding caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon has killed 120 people in Kenya, while people in almost 90,000 households have been forced to leave their homes, the government said.

The latest estimated death toll has doubled as heavy seasonal rains following the worst drought in four decades have submerged towns and villages across East Africa, rendering hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

Residents cross a road damaged by El Niño rains in Tula, Tana River county in Kenya.Credit: AP

Thousands of homes have been washed away or are marooned, while farmland has been submerged and tens of thousands of livestock drowned, aid agencies said. In neighbouring Somalia floods have killed at least 96 people and displaced 700,000, a disaster management official said. In Ethiopia, at least 44 people have been killed.

All 47 counties were affected, but four in the east were hit harder – Tana River, Garissa, Wajir and Mandera – are most severely affected, Interior Minister Raymond Omollo said.

“All major dams are being monitored but Kiambere has a metre remaining to overflow,” Omollo said in a statement, referring to the Kiambere Hydroelectric Power Station in Tana River.

“We call on those downstream to move to higher ground even as government enhances power generation to mitigate the challenge.”

People walk on a destroyed section of the road following heavy rains which stopped vehicles from crossing along Mwingi-Garissa highway, Northern Kenya.Credit: AP

In Garissa town, thousands of people have been displaced after their homes were swept away.

“All roads are destroyed. I don’t even know where people will go,” Garissa resident Joel Ngui said.

Many roads and bridges have been washed away or partially destroyed, making it difficult to reach people marooned by floodwaters.

Houses are submerged after two days of rain in Mombasa, Kenya.Credit: AP

Residents living by the Tana River, Kenya’s largest, have been left homeless and hungry after it burst its banks.

Near Tana River, Kenya’s largest, Marian Ware, a widow and mother of five, escaped with her children after her home was carried away. She constructed a makeshift shelter on higher ground.

“I had no one to help me, my husband died a long time ago,” she said. “I was struggling to get my children to safety. When I went back, everything was gone.”

President William Ruto said the floods and landslides had been worsened by El Nino. He activated a National Disaster Operation Centre on Sunday but fell short of declaring the floods a national emergency.

Men walk through floodwaters on a street in the town of Beledweyne, in Somalia.Credit: AP

His spokesperson, Hussein Mohammed noted “disease outbreaks, destruction of infrastructure and property as well as prolonged power outages” across Kenya and the region. He said the emergency status could change “if things get out of hand, if things get worse”.

The Kenya Meteorological Department forecast that heavy rainfall will continue into the new year.

Climate change is causing more intense and more frequent extreme weather events, according to scientists.

In response, African leaders have proposed new global taxes and changes to international financial institutions to help fund climate change action.

Reuters, AP

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