May 24, 2024

Seventy-six people in Kenya have died because of flooding triggered by torrential downpours since March, the government has said, warning residents “to brace for even heavier rainfall”.

Kenya and its east African neighbours have been battered by stronger than usual rain in recent weeks, compounded by the El Niño weather system.

Flash floods have submerged roads and neighbourhoods, leading to the displacement of more than 130,000 people across 24,000 households, many of them in the capital, Nairobi, the government spokesperson, Isaac Mwaura, said.

“We deeply regret to announce the tragic loss of an additional six lives in the last 12 hours, bringing the total to 76,” he said on Saturday, adding that 29 people had sustained injuries and 19 had been reported missing.

“Nairobi is currently experiencing the highest impact, with a significant death toll of 32 and 16,909 households displaced.”

A girl and a boy carry a piece of furniture from their house that was destroyed by floods in Mathare, Nairobi. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Mwaura said all five dams comprising the Seven Forks hydropower project along the Tana river, Kenya’s longest, were at total capacity.

“There is a prediction of a massive overflow downstream within the next 24 hours. Residents in these areas are advised to move to higher grounds,” he said.

The monsoons have caused havoc across neighbouring Tanzania as well, with at least 155 people killed in flooding and landslides.

“The situation here is really scary,” said Khatibu Kapara, a resident of Dar es Salaam’s Jangwani neighbourhood.

“Many people including myself have been affected by floods. Many people have lost their property due to floods, their houses have been surrounded” by water, the 35-year-old said.

Residents are rescued by boat in an area heavily affected by floods in the Rufiji district village of Mohoro, in Tanzania. Photograph: AFP/Getty

In Burundi, one of the world’s poorest countries, about 96,000 people had been displaced by months of relentless rain, the United Nations and the government said this month.

There have also been heavy storms in Uganda, causing riverbanks to overflow, with two deaths confirmed and several hundred villagers displaced.

Late last year, more than 300 people died in rains and floods in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, just as the region was trying to recover from its worst drought in four decades, which left millions of people hungry.

El Niño is a naturally occurring climate pattern typically associated with increased heat worldwide, leading to drought in some parts of the world and heavy rains elsewhere.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization said in March that the latest El Niño was one of the five strongest ever recorded.

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