Kenya floods: Maasai Mara visitors stranded as death toll nears 200


Staff and visitors were stranded and buildings submerged in Kenya’s famous Masai Mara nature reserve, as the death toll in Catastrophic floods in the southwest of the country caused the death of at least 188 people.

Local authorities ordered the closure of some tourist facilities in the National Reserve after the Talek River, one of the Mara River’s tributaries, burst its banks and swept away more than a dozen tourist lodges and camps on the banks of the river.

Videos on social media showed some buildings and vehicles completely submerged inside the popular park as tourists rushed to leave the affected areas.

Weeks of heavy rain and flash floods have ravaged parts of Kenya for days, leaving dozens of people missing in the surroundings of the capital, Nairobi, and causing a devastating landslide in the city of Mai Mahiu.

Two more bodies were recovered from the landslide site, bringing the total number of deaths there to 50, government spokesman Isaac Mwaura said on Thursday, revising downwards The previous figure of 71 was reported due to an error, Nakuru County Governor Susan Kihika told CNN.

In Maasai Mara, camp owners were told to abandon affected properties and “move to higher ground and away from the Talek River,” Narok County Governor Patrick Ole Ntutu said on Wednesday.

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Parts of the Masai Mara National Reserve were submerged by floods.

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The death toll from a landslide in Mai Mahiu rose to 50 on Thursday.

But local administrators went even further in their warnings, threatening legal consequences for those still left behind, even accusing those left behind of attempting suicide.

“We will forcibly evacuate anyone left in any house or shelter along the river. We will take action against them because that is considered a suicide attempt,” Narok County Commissioner Kipkech Lotiatia told reporters.

Authorities said they had deployed two helicopters to rescue stranded tourists and local staff around the national reserve after receiving distress calls. The flooding was caused by rising rivers after several days of continuous rain, the county said in X.

A tour guide told CNN he was awakened by the sounds of rushing water after 1 a.m. Thursday. When he came out of his tent, the water was up to his waist and the entire Talek Bush camp had been surrounded.

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“My driver and I were the first to wake up, so we woke up the 14 international tourists and 25 staff members and climbed stairs to some water tanks that are elevated,” James Apolloh Omenya, 27, told CNN by phone. .

“It rained on us from 2 in the morning until 5:30 in the morning, but we couldn’t get out and the planes that came to rescue us couldn’t arrive at the same time.”

The Kenya Red Cross said it had rescued more than 90 people and that at least 14 camps around the Talek River had been closed.

While parts of the Mara have flooded before in Kenya’s so-called long rains season, locals say the scale of this year’s deluge is unprecedented.

The country has deployed “Paramilitary Academy corps” from its National Youth Service to Narok to “join the multi-agency team for search and rescue operations following the heavy downpour,” according to a statement from X.

The Horn of Africa, a region of eastern Africa that includes Kenya, is one of the most climate-vulnerable regions in the world. Heavy rains have also affected Tanzania and Burundi.

“Kenya is facing a worsening flood crisis due to the combined effects of El Niño and prolonged rains that occurred between March and May 2024,” said Jagan Chapagain, executive director of the International Federation of Red Cross Societies. and the Red Crescent (IFRC). said in a post on X earlier this week, referring to the weather pattern that originates in the Pacific Ocean along the equator and affects weather around the world.

“The unfolding devastation underscores the government’s obligation to prepare for and respond promptly to the foreseeable impacts of climate change and natural disasters,” Nyagoah Tut Pur, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Thursday. “Kenyan authorities must urgently ensure support to affected communities and protect populations facing high risk.”