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Death toll hits 57 in Kenya's landslides tragedy as politicians trade barbs

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online
At least 24 people killed by landslides, floods in Kenya [PHOTO: Al Jazeera]

NAIROBI, Kenya - At least 57 people have been confirmed dead following deadly mudslides in West Pokot region, over 600 KM North West of the capital Nairobi, state officials have confirmed.

Search and rescue operations are still undergoing, with the multi-agency team still struggling to access affected people, who are in dire need of humanitarian aid.

John Longanyapuo, the governor of the devolved unit, on Monday, told reporters that 'we have retrieved around 43 bodies and the death toll is around 57'.

The first-term governor added, "Our local hospital is crowded but we have received doctors from Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret. We are trying to reach some villages."

Saturday's deadly landslides tragedy is the first to ever occur in the region, with Pokot South and Central regions being the most affected.

President Uhuru Kenyatta deployed Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) on Saturday to the region but rescue missions and distribution of food are taking longer due to poor weather.

For the better part of Monday, a group of politicians led by Deputy President William Ruto, who comes from the greater Rift Valley region where West Pokot is situated, toured the area.

Ruto said: "I am told KDF has dispatched food. I have ordered another chopper which will be ferrying doctors to the remote villages."

Earlier, Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang'i was forced to abandon his trip due to 'bad weather'. His chopper landed in Eldoret, 200 KM South of West Pokot.

Matiang'i, who was accompanied by other officers, tweeted, "State officers, including CS @EugeneLWamalwa, @IG_NPS, Rift Valley RC and I have been compelled to land at Eldoret Int'l Airport on our way to West Pokot due to inclement weather."

By evening on Monday, his entire brigade which is responsible for coordination in such calamities was holed up in Eldoret town, despite the fact that Kapenguria town can be accessed by road from the South.

Melancholically, the rescue mission is steadily taking a political angle following Matiang'i's decision to abandon the trip midway.

Oscar Sudi, an MP from Rift Valley, mocked the minister, saying, "On his way to West Pokot, Matiang'i received a call from Raila who asked him why he was away yet BBI preparation were underway."

Similar sentiments were made by David Pkosing, the MP of Pokot South, who questioned the decision by Matiang'i to stop in Eldoret despite Ruto making it.

"Sad that DP Ruto had to deploy his chopper to airlift medical personnel to affected areas, something that military choppers paid by taxpayers should be doing but CS Matiangi saw it fit to land with one at Eldoret," he wrote on Facebook.

Dr Matiang'i had insisted that his delegation will only proceed with the journey once the pilot issues the notice. He insisted that bad weather caused the delay.

But Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, who also hails from Rift Valley, said 'We shall return again and again until this problem is sorted and the people are safe. God bless and protect the people'.

Currently, politicians in Kenya are divided into two; those supporting 'Handshake' between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga and those purportedly against.

Governor Longanyapuo also decried lack of enough morgues in the region, a move which could now force families to quickly dispose of bodies of the loved ones.


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