24 Nov 2019

Deadly landslides bury Kenyan villagers

11:00 am on 24 November 2019

At least 36 people, including seven children, have been killed by landslides triggered by unusually heavy rains in northwestern Kenya, a local official says.

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At least one village has been cut off by flooded roads and four bridges have reportedly been swept away after heavy rain in West Pokot in Kenya. Photo: Supplied / Kenya Red Cross

The downpour began on Friday in West Pokot County, which borders Uganda, and worsened overnight, causing flooding and mudslides that swept away four bridges and left the worst-affected village, Muino, inaccessible by road.

"We can confirm that the number of those dead has sadly reached 36. Some people who we thought were lost have been found dead," Samuel Poghisio, a senator from the county, told Reuters by phone.

"More people are marooned and the entire village is at risk of being wiped out by the floods," the county's governor, John Lonyangapuo, told Reuters by phone as he waited for a helicopter to transport him to survey the damage.

He added that rescue efforts were underway in the area, where more than 500 vehicles are stuck on roads damaged by the landslides.

Eleven of the people killed were in the same house, Mr Lonyangapuo said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement that his "heartfelt condolences" were with the relatives and friends of the victims.

Mr Kenyatta said there had been "massive destruction" of property and infrastructure, and that he has ordered armed forces and rescue services to the area to help.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has promised a strong response to the deadly al-Shabaab attack in Garissa, Kenya.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered armed forces and rescue services to go to the area to help. Photo: AFP

Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i confirmed that rescue operations were "ongoing", adding that "harsh weather conditions" were hampering a full assessment of the damage.

Images on social media showed trees, mud and other debris scattered across roads.

The Red Cross has confirmed it is responding to reports of the "massive" landslides.

Kenya's meteorological department issued a warning of heavy rains on 18 November, telling people in "landslide-prone" areas to be on "high alert".

Countries throughout east Africa have been affected by the downpours in recent weeks.

Landslides and flash floods have killed people in Ethiopia and Tanzania while hundreds of thousands have been displaced in Somalia by heavy rains.

Scientists warn that a weather system called the Indian Ocean Dipole is making flooding worse in the area.

Known as the Indian Ocean "El Niño", it occurs when the western part of the Indian Ocean becomes significantly warmer than the eastern part.

- Reuters / BBC