Deadly landslides bury 29 people alive in Kenya, KDF deployed for rescue mission
NAIROBI, Kenya - A multi-agency team comprising of Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) troops have been deployed in West Pokot County, at least 700 KM North West of Nairobi for search and rescue mission.
Kenyan government confirmed 29 deaths orchestrated by deadly landslides in the arid region, whose residents are pastoralists.
Prof John Longanyapuo, the area governor, said 'I have never seen such a catastrophe in this region. We have lost many people. We need help urgently'.
The landslides hit the villages mainly in Pokot South, Nyarkulian areas, destroying major infrastructures that link the towns of Kapenguria and Lodwar in Northern Kenya.
Besides the devastating deaths and displacement of people, authorities confirmed, several castles valued at $1 million were swept away by raging floods.
Twelve of the deceased hailed from Tapach and Parua in Pokot South and 17 from Tamkal in Pokot Central, authorities said, adding: "Tens of others have been injured and are receiving treatment in different hospitals."
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, whose docket is responsible for the coordination of government agencies, said KDF troops and other humanitarian groups were on the site.
“The Government has deployed military and police choppers to scale up responses and respond to immediate needs of affected families," he said.
Earlier on, West Pokot County Commissioner Apollo Okello had called off rescue operation saying most bridges have been swept away hence hindering the operation.
“We are trying to reach where the bridge had been swept by floods, it is still raining,” he said.
The official added: "The problem is of huge magnitude and we have sought more help from the headquarters and well-wishers."
West Pokot region is not synonymous with landslides and the Friday night incident may have come as a shock to locals, thus unpreparedness.
Several hours later, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had been monitoring the unprecedented event from State House, condoled with the families of victims.
Uhuru further said the government will work hard and retrieve those still missing. Authorities are yet to confirm the number that is unaccounted for.
“My thoughts and prayers, and those of our entire nation are with families, friends, and relatives of those who lost their beloved ones," he said in a statement.
He added, “To those whose loved ones are yet to be found, I assure you that the ongoing multi-agency rescue operation will continue until after every missing person is accounted for”.
Opposition leaders Raila Odinga said, "We stand together in prayer and wish a quick recovery to the injured and comfort to those searching for their loved ones who are still missing."
Traditionally, the region has been neglected by the subsequent governments since independence, with locals mainly engaging either in cattle keeping of banditry.
In 2016, at least 20 police officers were killed at Kapedo, a region disputed by ethnic Pokots, Turkanas and Marakwets. The communities live with suspicions.
Kenya has been receiving heavy downpours since October, with the outcome causing deaths, and destruction of properties.
In October, the government said 29 people had been killed. Other regions experiencing floods include Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River among others.