‘It swept everything’: Kenya villagers count toll of dam delugeMon, 29 Apr 2024 14:25:49 GMT

The disaster struck in the dead of night, the villagers said, some still in shock over the deluge that engulfed their homes as a makeshift dam broke in Kenya’s Rift Valley.At 85, Peter Murithi Mwangi had already lived through a world war and British colonial rule.But as he gazed at his flood-damaged home, sadness etched across his face, he told AFP: “I have never seen anything like this.”Mwangi and his wife were fast asleep when he heard “a very loud” noise around 3:00 am on Monday (midnight GMT).After weeks of heavy rainfall that had already cost dozens of lives in Kenya, he knew immediately that the sound spelled danger.The water rushed in and swept away his phone, effectively trapping the elderly couple indoors, with no means of calling for help.”We prayed, prayed and prayed,” Mwangi said, before the water flowed further downhill, receding enough to allow them to leave their home in the village of Kamuchiri.He was one of the lucky ones.Rescuers — many of them locals and victims themselves — began searching for survivors before dawn broke.But the disaster’s deadly toll — which stands at 45 and is expected to rise — has stunned the close-knit community.”I am so worried because so many people that we used to live and pray with have died,” said Margaret Wangechi, a 52-year-old school teacher, who likened the dam burst to “an earthquake”.”As of now, we still haven’t found some of the bodies and we are still looking for them,” she told AFP, her voice shaking.She said the dead included two children she used to teach.- ‘Bodies under the mud’ – Stephen Njihia Njoroge, a resident involved in the emergency efforts, said he and others had managed to retrieve bodies from the debris using hoes and in some cases, their bare hands. “We collected some of the bodies… we don’t know how many are under the mud,” he said.Some villagers tried to clear piles of mud from their homes. Others wandered around in a daze as they contemplated the damage.Evidence of the devastation — and the lives destroyed — was everywhere. A pair of jeans, a pink towel with a checked pattern, plastic and metal utensils: personal items lay strewn across the ground, with flattened homes, uprooted trees and overturned vehicles testifying to the severity of the deluge.Even the animals were not spared, with cattle carcasses lying next to broken branches and trunks.”It swept everything in its path,” said Njoroge.