Kenyan po­lice to probe dam-burst that cost 44 lives

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - WORLD - Mag­gie Fick

KENYA’s chief pros­e­cu­tor yes­ter­day or­dered po­lice to in­ves­ti­gate a dam-burst on a com­mer­cial farm in the Rift Val­ley that killed dozens of peo­ple as a wall of wa­ter tore down a hill­side, oblit­er­at­ing ev­ery­thing in its path.

At least 44 peo­ple were killed when the reser­voir on the farm, which grows roses for ex­port to Europe, burst its banks on Wed­nes­day night after heavy rains. An­other 40 peo­ple have been re­ported miss­ing.

The Daily Na­tion news­pa­per quoted gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials as say­ing the dam and oth­ers on the 3 500-acre So­lai farm, 190km north­west of Nairobi, had not been cleared by gov­ern­ment engi­neers.

Vil­lagers had also com­plained when the dams were built, ac­cus­ing the far­mowner of de­priv­ing them of ac­cess to river wa­ter, the pa­per re­ported.

Vi­noj Ku­mar, gen­eral man­ager of the farm, blamed the dam wall col­lapse on tor­ren­tial rain in a for­est above the dam and de­nied that it was de­fec­tive or had not re­ceived the nec­es­sary ap­provals.

“How can they say it is il­le­gal? It was not built to­day or yes­ter­day. It was built 20 years back,” he said.

As muddy brown wa­ter coursed through the dirt road run­ning through the vil­lage of So­lai, po­lice at a check­point waved through lor­ries filled with sacks of rice brought by the Kenyan Red Cross.

At the vil­lage health cen­tre, dis­traught doc­tor Veron­ica Achoka re­counted the un­told suf­fer­ing of the com­mu­nity since Wed­nes­day night when the dam burst.

“Yes­ter­day was res­cue and evac­u­a­tion all day. The wa­ter swept peo­ple 10km down­hill. There’s so much prop­erty de­struc­tion.”

Kenya’s cut-flower sec­tor, in the fer­tile Rift Val­ley, has grown dra­mat­i­cally in the last decade to be­come one of the big­gest for­eign ex­change earn­ers in East Africa’s largest econ­omy and a ma­jor source of em­ploy­ment.

After a se­vere drought last year, East Africa has been hit by two months of heavy rain that has af­fected nearly a mil­lion peo­ple in Kenya, So­ma­lia, Ethiopia and Uganda.

More than 150 peo­ple have been killed and 300 000 dis­placed in Kenya, where roads, bridges and crops have been swept away, caus­ing mil­lions of dol­lars of dam­age. – Reuters

PHO­TO­GRAPH: THOMAS MUKOYA/REUTERS

AT A LOSS: A child walks in his house, which was partly de­stroyed by flood­ing

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