Kenya floods: Mass evacuations ordered ahead of cyclone

image caption, People in flood-prone areas have been ordered to evacuate by Friday evening

  • author, Alex Phillips
  • stock, BBC News

The Kenyan government has ordered people living near 178 dams and reservoirs to evacuate due to continued heavy rains.

The interior ministry warned that the aquifers were “full or nearly full and could leak at any time, posing a high risk to people living in their neighbourhoods”.

It left residents living near them – and those in a 30m (98ft) wetland corridor of the Nairobi River – for 24 hours from 18:30 local time on Thursday.

Recent heavy rains have caused severe flooding and landslides across Kenya and Tanzania.

About 188 people have died in Kenya since March, and 90 are missing, according to the latest official estimates. Another 155 people died in Tanzania.

Officials expect the situation to worsen in the coming days as more severe weather approaches.

“Mainly, Cyclone Hidaya is likely to develop in the coastal area, resulting in heavy rains, large waves and strong winds that may affect marine activities in the Indian Ocean,” Kenyan President William Ruto’s office said.

Nairobi will be among the worst hit areas by the storm, according to the Kenya Meteorological Department.

“The situation is likely to worsen as the soil around the country is completely waterlogged,” the home ministry said.

image source, Good pictures

image caption, Flooding worsens as a hurricane delivers heavy rainfall on already saturated soil

The ministry added that it has established temporary shelters, food and essentials for the evacuees, which will be kept at assembly points.

The evacuation included areas near the Nairobi Dam and the Titanic Dam. Buildings within the Nairobi River Wetlands will be removed, the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

It is unclear how many people will be affected by the evacuation order.

The Kenyan government has faced criticism over the speed of its response to the current natural disaster.

Mr Rudo defended his administration, telling the BBC on Monday that “a whole-of-government approach is underway”.

Following a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Mr Rudo’s office said flood victims were “increasingly receiving aid for food and non-food items” and blamed climate change for the extreme weather.

“[The] “The cabinet resolved that the government will henceforth mobilize the country in implementing measures, programs and policies to mitigate the effects of climate change,” it assured.

One of the biggest drivers of rainfall is the Indian Ocean dipole—opposites of warm and cold surface water often referred to as the “Indian Nino” because it resembles El Niño in the Pacific.

Warmer surface temperatures caused by climate change inject more moisture and energy into the atmosphere, making weather patterns more erratic and severe.

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