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Nairobi, Kenya floods: Dozens killed after dam bursts near Mai Mahiu as area devastated by weeks of heavy rain

Nairobi, Kenya floods: Dozens killed after dam bursts near Mai Mahiu as area devastated by weeks of heavy rain

Nairobi, Kenya

At least 35 people have died and dozens are missing after a dam collapsed in southern Kenya, sweeping away homes and vehicles as the country faces weeks of torrential rain and devastating floods.

A CNN team on the ground in the town of Mai Mahiu in Kenya's Rift Valley saw overturned cars, uprooted trees and homes swept away by mass floods.

CNN witnessed the damage to one of the areas most affected by the floods in Nakuru County, northwestern Kenya, which extended for several kilometers in every direction. A distraught man told CNN he feared many of his family members were still buried under mud and debris.

State Governor Susan Kihika told CNN that rescue teams were digging through mud and debris in an attempt to find survivors near Mai Mahiu, warning that the death toll could rise significantly.

The incident comes as floods have inundated large swathes of Kenya, killing at least 103 people and forcing thousands of residents to abandon their homes since March, government spokesman Isaac Maigoa Mwaura said on Monday.

Thomas Mukoya – Reuters

A man uses a stick to cross a river after torrential floods destroyed several homes when a dam collapsed, after heavy rains in Kamuchiri village in Mai Mahiu, Nakuru County, Kenya on April 29, 2024.

In Mai Mahiu, Kihika said a dangerous situation was unfolding as people and homes were swept away by flood waters.

“We are trying to deal with the situation but it is a bit stressful but we are doing our best especially to reach those who were turned away because we hope some of them are still alive,” Kihika said.

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Kihika said reaching Mai Mahiu, located 20 miles north of the capital, Nairobi, was difficult because part of the road was cut off due to recent heavy rains. She added that teams are removing the rubble while trying to reach survivors and recover bodies.

The Kenya Red Cross Society said on Monday that several people were taken to a health facility in Mai Mahiu due to flash floods that hit Kamuchiri village.

“The floodwaters reportedly came from a nearby river that burst its banks,” the group said.

Kenya has experienced heavy rainfall since mid-March, but the rainfall intensified over the past week, leading to mass flooding.

“Kenya faces a worsening flood crisis due to the combined effects of El Niño and persistent prolonged rains from March to May 2024,” Secretary-General and Executive Director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Jagan Chapagin He said in a post on Xreferring to the climate pattern that originates in the Pacific Ocean along the equator and affects weather around the world.

“Since November 2023, El Niño has caused devastating floods and overflowing rivers, causing more than a hundred deaths and widespread damage.”

Andre Kasoko/AP

A man appears in floodwaters near a submerged church complex, after the Tana River burst its banks following heavy rains in Mororo, Kenya, on Sunday, April 28.

Another climate fluctuation is called A Positive Indian Ocean DipoleJoyce Kimutai, a researcher at the Grantham Institute of Imperial College London and former principal meteorologist at the Kenya Meteorological Department, said that heavy rains, similar to El Niño but originating in the Indian Ocean along the coast of East Africa, also lead to intensified rainfall. Rain.

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Beyond these natural climate patterns, the long-term trend of human-caused global warming is very likely to affect heavy rainfall, as warm air tends to hold more moisture, Kimutai told CNN.

The Horn of Africa, a region in eastern Africa that includes Kenya, is one of the most climate-vulnerable regions in the world.

Edwin Whitta – Reuters

A drone photo shows damaged homes after heavy floods destroyed several homes when a dam collapsed, after heavy rains in Kamuchiri village in Mai Mahiu, Nakuru County, Kenya on April 29, 2024.

the Deadly rains across the Horn of Africa The severity of the events at the end of last year, which killed at least 300 people, was about twice what it would have been without climate change, according to a report released in December. analysis From scientists at the World Weather Attribution (WWA) initiative.

The impact of the recent rains in Kenya may have been exacerbated by the fact that they fell on extremely dry soil after years of catastrophic drought, which affected many parts of Kenya, killing livestock and crops and causing widespread hunger and water insecurity. This drought has been made 100 times more likely by pollution caused by planet-warming fossil fuels, the World War Report said in April. analysis is found.

“When people are still experiencing one extreme weather event, it makes them highly vulnerable to another event,” Kimutai said.

About 131,450 people were affected when floods swept through nearly half of Kenya.

Photos and videos from hard-hit Nairobi show people stranded on rooftops or salvaging what they can from homes destroyed by flash floods.

Another video shows massive flooding around the Tana River, with large parts of the surrounding area submerged. Roads, buildings and vehicles are submerged in water.

The Ministry of Education announced on Monday that all primary and secondary schools will postpone the start of the new semester by a week until May 6.

The Kenya Red Cross Society said on Sunday that 23 people were rescued and others were missing after a boat capsized in Kona Punda while heading to Mororo in Tana River County on Sunday.

The group said that as of Friday, it had rescued more than 300 people since the rains began in March.

Heavy rains in East Africa also affected Tanzania and Burundi. This was stated by Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa on Thursday At least 155 people were killed Due to floods in the country.

CNN's Laura Baddison contributed to this report.