Nairobi (AFP) – At least 27 people died when their homes were swept away after a dam burst in southern Kenya following heavy rains, police said Thursday.
The incident in Solai, near the Rift Valley city of Nakuru, occurred Wednesday evening, regional police chief Gideon Kibunjah told AFP by telephone, adding that 36 people had been hospitalised.
“The search and rescue exercise is ongoing and more bodies have been retrieved. The death toll is now 27,” Kibunjah said.
“It is a disaster because most people were asleep when the tragedy occurred and their houses were swept away.”
Police officers speaking from the scene say the private Patel dam, used for irrigation and fish farming, may have lacked a proper outlet.
The Kenyan Red Cross estimates that up to 500 families were affected by the disaster, which took place some 150 kilometres (90 miles) northwest of Nairobi.
“We have set up a centre near the scene for families to report missing members to enable us to reunite them,” said Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui.
Several villages were affected around Nakuru, Kenya’s fourth-largest city, as well as two schools.
Weeks of torrential rains in Kenya have led to flooding and mudslides, and the latest deaths take to 159 the death toll countrywide.
Government statistics released Wednesday showed that more than 220,000 people have been displaced by flooding as heavy rains hit the country after three consecutive failed rainy seasons had left it in drought.
Since March, at least 21,000 acres (8,500 hectares) of farmland have been submerged in water with an estimated 20,000 animals killed, the Red Cross said last week.
The floods have also destroyed road networks in some parts of the East African country and in some cases the military has stepped in to airlift residents from submerged houses.