Property worth millions was destroyed on Saturday night after devastating floods swept through several residential areas in the outskirts of Voi town in Taita-Taveta County.
Authorities reported that as a result of heavy rainfall in Taita Hills, Voi River broke her banks leading to widespread flooding in several villages adjacent to the river, a situation last seen in 1997.
Worst hit areas include Tanzania, Mwingoni, Msambweni and Ghaza. No fatalities were reported though dozens of domestic animals including goats, dogs, cats and chickens drowned in several homesteads.
Speaking to KNA on Sunday, Area Assistant Chief Mr. Nkurumah Shaaban said rescue operations started at 2am in the morning after distress calls were received. Security agencies, county government officials and Red Cross workers braved heavy rainfalls to evacuate hundreds of local residents to safer grounds.
“We have moved the affected to safer areas but we continue to monitor the situation,” he said.
In Tanzania, dozens of semi-permanent houses collapsed in the overnight deluge. Rescuing teams used ropes to pull out trapped families from their houses. In Msambweni, the floods swept through residential homes leaving a trail of desruction in their wake. Concrete fences were brought down while vehicles were submerged in some houses before the waters started subsiding.
While touring the affected villages, County Secretary Mghedi Liversen said they were still assessing the damage to know the numbers those affected which might run into hundreds. He added that other agencies have been mobilized to provide emergency non-food assistance to the affected families.
“We are gathering data on the number of families affected. Our first priority was to make sure everyone is safe,” he said.
However, most residents blame extensive sand harvesting and brick making along Voi River for the floods. Dredging the river bed and banks is said to have caused several blockages in the river which led to bursting of the banks.
A Kalolenyi resident Mzee Christopher Akul said extensive illegal sand harvesting had degraded the natural course of the river forcing the water to seek alternative ways. He added that most of the affected people were victims of circumstances beyond their making.
“These people are not sand harvesters but they have still suffered losses because of activities of a few,” he said. He added that everyone should speak out against environmental degradation to avoid such calamities.
Other regions like Rong’e Juu in Mwatate sub-county reported isolated cases of landslides where families were evacuated to safer zones.
The flooding comes barely a week after the government evacuated hundreds of families from landslide-prone zones in Wundanyi sub-county. Area Deputy County Commissioner David Kiprop said government agencies were continuing to monitor the situation to avert losses.
By Wagema Mwangi