At least 36 people, including seven children, have been killed by landslides triggered by unusually heavy rains in northwestern Kenya, a local official says.
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.
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.
The Kenya Red Cross will continue to support affected families in search, rescue & recovery , psychosocial support, distribuition of household items & tracing services to help link families with those reported missing in addition to assesment of other areas at risk of landslides. https://t.co/mplIdi8rZx— Kenya Red Cross (@KenyaRedCross) November 23, 2019
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