Kenyan police to probe dam-burst that cost 44 lives
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
AT A LOSS: A child walks in his house, which was partly destroyed by flooding