by AFP/ pic by AFP
NAIROBI – The death toll from floods and landslides in Kenya’s west over the weekend has climbed to 52, an official said Monday, with more heavy rain forecast to lash the region.
Bodies were still being recovered in the Pokot region, 350 kilometres (220 miles) northwest of the capital Nairobi, after powerful walls of mud and rock swept away homes and buried people in their sleep early Saturday.
West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo said a mother and her three children were among those found by rescuers sifting through the devastation.
“The number of people confirmed dead now is 52”, he told reporters Monday, adding some had been buried and others taken to the mortuary.
Kenya’s interior ministry said Saturday that army and police helicopters have been sent to West Pokot, where the initial death toll was around 30.
Rescue efforts were delayed because roads and bridges had been cut after streams turned into raging torrents, and Lonyangapuo said transport remained a problem.
The Kenya Meteorological Department has warned that more heavy rainfall is expected to lash parts of country until Tuesday, including in West Pokot, and urged people to be on high alert for landslides.
The landslides and floods come amid weeks of destructive rains and flooding across the wider East African region.
In Tanzania, at least 10 people drowned early Saturday when they were swept away by a torrential river in the far west, in the Sengerema district of Mwanza.
Violent downpours have also displaced half a million in Somalia, submerged whole towns in South Sudan and killed dozens in flash floods and landslides in Ethiopia.
Close to a million people in South Sudan alone are affected, with growing fears of disease and starvation.
Floods hit East Africa regularly but scientists say that it has been exacerbated by a powerful climate phenomenon in the Indian Ocean stronger than any seen in years.
The extreme weather is blamed on the Indian Ocean Dipole – a climate system defined by the difference in sea surface temperature between western and eastern areas of the ocean.
The ocean off East Africa is currently far warmer than usual, resulting in higher evaporation and consequent rain over the continent.