More than 270 dead as east Africa hit by severe flooding

Rwanda hard hit by ‘worst in months’ rains that have caused ‘a number of disasters’

Residents from Busia County, Kenya, navigate flood waters after the Nzoia river  burst its banks. The deluge was compounded by backflow from Lake Victoria. Photograph: Reuters

Residents from Busia County, Kenya, navigate flood waters after the Nzoia river burst its banks. The deluge was compounded by backflow from Lake Victoria. Photograph: Reuters

 

East Africa has been hit by another round of deadly flooding and landslides. In the past three weeks, Kenya has recorded nearly 200 deaths. At least 65 people have died in Rwanda and another 16 in Somalia.

On Wednesday, Kenyan government spokesman Cyrus Oguna said more than 100,000 people had been displaced because of the flooding.

While the government would distribute some food items and other essentials, “a long term solution to protect the environment should be put in place, by rehabilitating degraded areas in efforts to prevent more disaster,” he tweeted. “We should not think of the environment [only] when we are faced with disaster.” The floods are believed to have destroyed at least 8,000 acres of crops.

Rwanda’s ministry of emergency management said the rains were the “worst in months” and had caused “a number of disasters”. The landscape in northern Rwanda and capital city Kigali is hilly, making landslides more likely when rain is heavy.

In Somalia, the Norwegian Refugee Council says flooding is just one problem locals are dealing with. Since 2017, 72 per cent of the average of 928,000 people displaced each year have had to leave home because of the impact of floods or drought. Living conditions mean it’s hard for them to practise social distancing or other measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Rain also trapped roughly 200 people in a hospital in western Uganda, according to BBC reports, while hundreds of people in nearby Kasese district were left homeless.

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has repeatedly listed the rising water in Lake Victoria as one of the three crises Uganda is facing, along with the coronavirus pandemic and locust swarms.

“The water levels for Lake Victoria now stand at 13.4metres, one point less than the highest we have ever obtained (13.41metres in May 1964),” he tweeted on Thursday, following a visit to the waterfront in Entebbe, near Uganda’s international airport.

Last month a floating island near Jinja, a southern town on the source of the Nile river, hit a hydroelectric power station turbine. This caused a nationwide blackout, resulting in one of the president’s national addresses on Covid-19 being postponed.

Hundreds of East Africans were killed by flooding late last year and hundreds of thousands displaced, after heavy rains which were attributed to the Indian Ocean Dipole, a climate phenomenon which refers to higher-than-usual temperature differences in the ocean.

Experts and governments have repeatedly warned that extreme weather and climate-related disasters appear to be increasing.