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Kenya’s weather outlook ‘dire’ as cyclone nears, president says

TORRENTIAL rains that caused widespread flooding and landslides across Kenya in recent weeks, killing at least 210 people, are forecast to worsen over the rest of this month, President William Ruto said.

The floods have wreaked havoc, destroying homes, roads, bridges and other infrastructure across Kenya, East Africa’s largest economy. The death toll exceeds that from floods triggered by the El Nino weather phenomenon late last year.

“Sadly, we have not seen the last of this perilous period, as the situation is expected to escalate. Meteorological reports paint a dire picture,” Ruto said on Kenyan television. “Kenya may face its first-ever cyclone.”

Cyclone Hidaya is expected to make landfall in Tanzania, Kenya’s southern neighbour, on Saturday, bringing with it waves almost eight metres high (26 feet) and 165 kph winds (100 mph), the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre said.

Floods have killed more than 160 people in Tanzania since the beginning of April, Tanzania’s government spokesman Mobhare Matinyi said.

“This cyclone, named Hidaya, that could hit anytime now, is predicted to cause torrential rain, strong winds and powerful and dangerous waves,” Ruto said.

Earlier this week, Ruto ordered those living in landslide-prone areas to leave for safer ground.

The government has asked people living near 178 dams and water reservoirs, now close to overflowing, as well as those in informal settlements close to rivers and streams, to evacuate.

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Ruto said the reopening of all schools for the upcoming term, which was meant to start this week, would be postponed until further notice.

The Nairobi government has set up 115 camps to host people displaced by the flooding, and is working closely with donors and humanitarian organisations to provide food and non-food supplies to those affected, he said.

Opposition leaders and rights groups have criticised Ruto’s administration for its response to the disaster.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch accused authorities of failing to put in place a timely national response plan, despite warnings from the Kenya Meteorological Department a year ago about the likely impact of flooding caused by El Nino.

By The African Mirror