On Sunday morning May 3, 2020 Lodwar residents woke up to the sad news that two people who were travelling from Lodwar to Lokichoggio had been washed into river Kawalase, a kilometer away from Lodwar town.
Residents walked on as others drove to witness the incident on the warm Sunday morning.
Police and the residents struggled to access the double cab vehicle with a view to saving lives of the two occupants of the vehicle. After much struggle they found that the bodies of the two people had been washed away only to be found a day later at the banks of the river.
David Mwangi had excused himself to go home after spending a few hours with his friends at a pub in Lodwar on Saturday evening because he was to travel to Lokichoggio on Sunday morning. Being a responsible driver he could not relax more at the pub.
Little did his friends know that this was the last time they were seeing him.
They would learn that it was Mwangi when they saw his vehicle submerged in water, according to his friend John Chege.
This was not the first time the flooded river was claiming lives not to mention property worth millions of shillings.
Two days later a lorry belonging to G4S Company plunged into the river as the driver attempted to cross to Lodwar from Kakuma.
On October 19, 2020 a total of 36 people including a nine-month infant escaped death narrowly on a Monday morning when the bus they were traveling in was swept into river Kawalase in Lodwar.
The bus belonging to Mwanake bus company was swept at 8am into the river as the driver attempted to cross the flooded river.
Lodwar town Ward administrator Shaban Lotabo who arrived at the scene to help in rescue operations, said all 36 passengers who were onboard were rescued.
“The members of the community with support from the Kenya Red cross officials managed to rescue all the passengers. Only one infant who is about six months sustained serious injuries and was rushed to Lodwar county referral hospital,” said Lotabo.
On May 2, 2016, three people were swept away by floods in River Kawalase according to the then Sub County Police Commander Joel Kirui.
In another incident that occurred in April 2018, a total of 60 passengers were rescued when a bus belonging to Eldoret express was swept into the same river.
A double cab pickup which had traveled from Uganda was also swept into the river. Luckily no life was lost.
Passengers and candidates sitting exams have been inconvenienced whenever it rains.
Vegetable vendors have incurred losses as their perishable goods go to waste as they wait for the waters to subside before they can cross to either side.
Others have complained of missing their flights due to inaccessibility of Lodwar airstrip because they have to cross the river.
Turkana County Commissioner Muthama Wambua says during his tenure in the county, 12 deaths have been reported at Kawalase bridge in Lodwar not to mention loss of property as trucks and other passenger vehicles are swept into the river.
“Motor vehicle owners who had acquired loans to purchase vehicles are now servicing loans for damaged vehicles after drivers ignored police warnings not to cross flooded rivers,” says Wambua.
He urged the Chinese contractor to prioritize the construction of the bridge and they heeded thereby saving lives.
The construction of the bridge has finally managed to address the perennial crises at the bridge during the rainy season.
Residents are now happy that despite the ongoing rains that are being experienced the bridge is passable.
‘This is a dream come true. We no longer have to wait for days for the waters to subside so that we can cross the river,’ said Mike Etabo, a driver.
The bridge is part of the ongoing road constructions of the 338 km road from Lokichar to Nakodok, at the Kenya-South Sudan border being undertaken through Kenya national highways authority for boosting security and development in the region.
Under the Eastern Africa Regional Transport, Trade and Development Facilitation Project (EATTDFP), residents are now able to enjoy fast transportation from Eldoret to Nadapal (border of Kenya and South Sudan) via the modern A1 road that includes a fibre optic cabre.
The road which includes critical bridges like Kainuk and Kawalase in Turkana county have resolved the perennial deaths and loss of property caused by flooding at the two bridges during rainy seasons.
Kenya national chamber of commerce and industry chairman Pius Ewoton said the bridge is a boost to cross border trade.
Ewoton says more vehicles are now operating from Kakuma to South Sudan due to the good state of the road.
Emily Akai, a vegetable vendor in Lodwar says her business fortunes have improved because she no longer experiences losses that she used to incur as her perishable goods got spoiled on the roads due to poor weather and vehicle breakdowns.
Kenha Deputy Director Julius Macodero says the road is divided into five contracts. Most of the contracts are over 80 percent complete.
“Upgrading of the Kainuk bridge is 100 percent complete. Kawalase bridge in Lodwar was completed in November 2021,” he said.
The road project also is among Sh 2.9 billion social amenity projects that will include modern schools, health centres, market centres and water projects.
Once completed, the project will completely transform the lives of the residents living in the region, says Wambua.
By Peter Gitonga