MOMBASA, 17 October 2011 (IRIN) – Flash floods in coastal areas of Kenya have claimed several lives, damaged schools and destroyed sewage systems, leading to fears of disease outbreaks, according to officials and local residents.
Affected areas include Changamwe, Kisauni, Kongowea and Likoni estates in Mombasa, where flood waters have submerged large areas, making it difficult for residents to access clean water. Pit latrines have also been submerged in Ukunda in Kwale County, which neighbours Mombasa.
Residents depending on boreholes for their water supply have called on the government to intervene after sewage found its way into their source of clean water.
“Even water from the tap is smelling of sewage, we just don’t know what to do,” Halima Hassan, a resident of Likoni, told IRIN. “We fear we might start contracting diseases if nothing is done.”
John Ndung’u, the public health officer in Changamwe area, said public health officers were on high alert. “My colleagues from other districts around the region and I have been visiting public institutions, especially schools and villages in severely affected areas, to ensure that sanitation is good,” he said.
Piles of filth and waste from the several open dumpsites in the town had also been swept by rain water into residential areas.
Seven people have died since the heavy rains started pounding the area in early October and four others were seriously injured when their public van was swept away by flood-waters and plunged into Rare River, Kilifi County.
Rescue personnel from the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) and the local administration have been assisting those affected by the floods.
The KRCS coordinator in Kilifi, Samuel Kamau, urged residents to be careful when crossing flooded rivers.
“These flash floods should not be taken lightly,” he said. “The locals need to be advised that they’re coming with a lot of force.”
The floods have also damaged several schools, forcing respective administrations to send students home. At Vitengeni Baptist Secondary School in Ganze, more than 300 students had to spend the night in the cold while others were sent home after the school’s dormitories and classes collapsed due to the heavy rains.
Vitengeni school deputy, Charles Charo, said: “It was just by God’s grace that the building collapsed during the day, at a time when the students were going on with their lessons… but it could have been a tragedy if it had happened at night.”
Many roads have been cut off, notably in Wundanyi and Taita-Taveta districts.
The main road from Mombasa leading to Tanzania became impassible on 14 October after a section in Mangwei near Msambweni, Kwale County, collapsed, leaving several trucks stranded.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]