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Never disregard weather advisories, weatherman

As the much-anticipated El Nino rains continue to pound a large part of the country, residents of Nyeri have been warned against disregarding advisory statements being issued by the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD).

The caution comes in the wake of a recent announcement by the weatherman warning that the ongoing rains will intensify in the coming weeks and will likely result in widespread flooding and destruction of human settlements, crops, and livestock in several parts of the country.

Nyeri County Director of Meteorological Services John Muiruri has stated that while the county may be spared from the ravages of widespread floods and destruction being witnessed in other parts of the country, it still behoves every person to take caution and avoid putting themselves in harm’s way.

“We had a workshop about El Nino preparedness, which was attended by the Governor (Mutahi Kahiga) and County Commissioner Pius Murugu, where we insisted that we will have heavy rains and people need to be prepared. So, we cannot change that condition, whether people dispute our prediction or not,” he pointed out.

Regarding advising those still living in areas marked as hotspots to relocate to safer grounds to avert flash floods and landslides, the official said their work ends with giving the advisory warning.

Muiruri noted that while Nyeri may not be prone to landslides and massive flooding, those occupying areas located near rivers and in hilly areas still face the risk of being washed away by the downpour.

He also said that he had received information about the occurrence of a landslide in the King’ong’o area near Nyeri town but clarified that he had yet to verify the authenticity of the report.

“When we issue a forecast, we tell those people living near rivers to move to higher ground, but it is upon you to decide whether you will move out or not. We cannot come and remove people from where they are staying. Ours is to issue the forecast and warning,” he stressed.

On Tuesday, Nyeri County Deputy Governor David Kinanie told journalists that three people have so far lost their lives while trying to cross the River Chania, which is currently in flood.

The latest victim is an 11-year-old boy from Nyeri town who disappeared four days ago, only for his body to be retrieved from the river, several kilometres away from his home.

The Kenya Red Cross (KRC) has already warned the country to brace for more humanitarian crises within the next few weeks, even as seven counties report widespread destruction of crops and displacement of both people and livestock due to flooding.

Statistics from KRC put the number of people who have lost their lives due to flash floods at 46, with 15,264 families having been forced to relocate from their homes due to flooding.

In addition, 1,067 livestock have been lost and 241 acres of agricultural land have been submerged under water, posing a threat to food production in the affected areas.

Among the counties that have borne the brunt of the deluge are Marsabit, Garissa, Mandera, Isiolo, Wajir, and Tana River.

The regions of Nyanza, Western, and South Rift have also been identified as flood hotspots, with KRC Secretary General Idris Ahmed saying the country needs a 24-hour disaster alert and response system to help reach out to those who will be affected by floods.

“If you look at the weather forecast in the next two weeks, we shall have more concern in western Kenya, the lake basin, and the south rift region,” said Ahmed while speaking on Citizen TV on Sunday night.

The official also disclosed that at least 29 counties had been affected by flooding, with those residing in the North Eastern region being the worst affected.

“As we speak now, the counties that are most affected in the northern parts of the country are Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Marsabit, Samburu, and Isiolo, but the spread is pretty much across the country, “he noted.

According to a KMD report dated August 30, 2023, the climate outlook for the October–November–December period indicates the whole country will likely experience enhanced rainfall, a departure from what has been the norm for the last few years.

The high precipitation will be driven by warmer-than-average Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, indicating the presence of El Nino conditions.

Nyeri is one of the counties expected to experience heavy rains throughout the three-month cycle.

By Samuel Maina

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