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Floods kill at least 45 in central Kenya after dam bursts

HEAVY rains in central Kenya killed at least 45 people when floodwaters swept away houses and cars in the town of Mai Mahiu, a government minister said.

The police said the flooding was caused by a dam that burst, although two local residents said the water had actually broken through a railway embankment after a tunnel that had channelled the water under the tracks was blocked by an earlier landslide.

The floodwaters also carried away trees and railway lines. Hours after the rain had let up, local residents pulled motorcycles and household belongings from the mud.

Joel Kuria, a farmer, was awoken by screams and the trembling of the house he shares with his wife and two children.

“It was very dark, but we managed to leave the house in time before the gushing waters swept away everything including our livestock,” he told Reuters from the town centre, where he was camping.

“The grumbling sound was scary and was worsened by screams of victims being washed downstream.”

Amos Kimani, a quarry worker, said he was awoken by the gushing waters, which forced him to escape through the roof.

“It happened so fast as one minute I was in bed and the next I was escaping through the roof,” he said. “Thank God I am safe.”

Road and Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkomen told reporters that at least 45 people had been killed, 200 families had been displaced and 150 victims had been rescued. He said he feared the death toll would rise further.

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The deaths have brought the overall toll across Kenya from heavy rains and flooding since last month to more than 140. More than 185,000 people have been displaced, according to government figures.

Dozens more have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced by intense downpours in other East African countries, including Tanzania and Burundi.

East Africa was hit by record floods during the last rainy season in late 2023. Scientists say climate change is causing more intense and frequent extreme weather events.

The Kenya Red Cross said on X that its personnel had retrieved two bodies after a boat capsized late on Sunday in the Tana River, in eastern Kenya’s Garissa County. Twenty-three people were rescued from the same incident.

A road underpass at the international airport in the capital Nairobi was flooded, and hydroelectric dams were filled to capacity, a government spokesperson said.

Kenya’s education ministry on Monday postponed the start of a new school term by one week due to the rains.

By The African Mirror