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Kenya and Tanzania brace for cyclone as heavy rain persists

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Dozens of villagers died when a dam burst near Mai Mahiu in the Rift Valley.

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Dozens of villagers died when a dam burst near Mai Mahiu in the Rift Valley.

Kenya and Tanzania were bracing for a cyclone on Thursday after torrential rains have devastated East Africa, killing more than 350 people and forcing tens of thousands from their homes.

In addition to claiming 188 lives in Kenya since March, the floods have displaced 165,000 people and 90 are missing, the Interior Ministry said, as the government warned citizens to remain on alert.

“Crucially, the coastal region is likely to experience Cyclone Hidaya, which will bring heavy rain, large waves and strong winds that could affect marine activities in the Indian Ocean,” Kenyan President William Ruto’s office said.

Neighboring Tanzania, where at least 155 people have died in floods and landslides, is also expected to feel the force of Hidaya.

“The presence of Cyclone Hidaya… is expected to dominate and affect weather patterns in the country, including heavy rainfall and strong winds in some regions near the Indian Ocean,” the Tanzania Red Cross Society said in X, previously Twitter.

Kenya’s capital Nairobi is among areas expected to experience heavy rain over the next three days, the Kenya Meteorological Department said on Day X, warning of strong winds and large ocean waves along the coast of the country.

The meteorologist urged residents to be alert for flash flooding and lightning, adding that strong winds could “tear off roofs, uproot trees” and cause other damage.

Heavier than usual rains have also claimed at least 29 lives in Burundi, with 175 injured and tens of thousands displaced since September last year, the United Nations said.


Map of Kenya showing the town of Mai Mahiu, near where a makeshift dam overflowed when torrential rains and floods hit the country, killing dozens of people.

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Map of Kenya showing the town of Mai Mahiu, near where a makeshift dam overflowed when torrential rains and floods hit the country, killing dozens of people.

Stranded tourists

Earlier this week, Ruto announced that he would deploy the Kenyan army to evacuate everyone living in flood-prone areas.

In a bulletin published on Thursday night, the Interior Ministry ordered anyone living near major rivers or near 178 “full or nearly full dams or water reservoirs” to leave the area within 24 hours. warning that otherwise they would face a “mandatory evacuation for their safety.”

The devastation has also hit Kenya’s tourism sector, a key economic driver, with about 100 tourists stranded in the famous Masai Mara wildlife reserve on Wednesday after a river burst its banks, flooding lodges and safari camps.

Rescue teams later managed to evacuate 90 people by land and air, the Interior Ministry said.

The area is currently inaccessible due to washed out bridges, Narok West sub-county administrator Stephen Nakola told AFP, adding that about 50 camps in the reserve have been affected, leaving more than 500 locals temporarily out of work.

There are no fatalities, but communities living in the area have been forced to move.

“Accessing the Mara is now a nightmare and people trapped there are really worried, they have no exit route,” Nakola said, adding that waterborne diseases are likely.


The Mathare slum in Nairobi suffered severe flooding.

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The Mathare slum in Nairobi suffered severe flooding.

“I am worried that the situation could get worse because the rains continue.”

In the deadliest incident in Kenya, dozens of villagers were killed when a dam burst on Monday near Mai Mahiu in the Rift Valley, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of Nairobi.

The Interior Ministry said 52 bodies had been recovered and 51 people were still missing after the dam disaster.

Travel warnings

Opposition politicians and pressure groups have accused Ruto’s government of being unprepared and slow to respond to the crisis despite weather warnings.

“The Kenyan government has an obligation to protect people when disaster strikes,” Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The United States and Britain have issued travel warnings for Kenya, urging its citizens to be cautious amid the extreme weather.

The devastation has sparked an outpouring of condolences and pledges of solidarity from around the world, including Pope Francis and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The rainfall has been amplified by the El Niño weather pattern, a natural weather phenomenon typically associated with increased heat around the world, causing droughts in some parts of the world and heavy downpours in other places.