At least 36 dead in Kenyan landslides as rain pummels northwest region

At least 36 people have been killed in landslides caused by unusually heavy rains, officials say.

People gather around the road that was destroyed by heavy rain near Kapenguria, West Pokot County in northwestern Kenya Saturday. At least 36 people have been killed by landslide that hit Nyarkulian and Parua villages in West Pokot Friday. The main road has been destroyed, making it impossible to reach the affected areas. More casualties are feared, the report says quoting a local chief.

The downpour began Friday in the Northwestern part of the country, which borders Uganda. Rain pummeled the region all night, causing flooding that swept away four bridges and left several villages inaccessible by road.

The official death toll has climbed upward to 36 from 29 earlier in the day, with at least seven children among the dead so far.

“My thoughts and prayers, and those of our entire nation are with families, friends and relatives of those who lost their beloved in the unfortunate incident,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in an official statement. “Please accept my heartfelt condolences.”

The Kenya Red Cross tweeted Saturday that it “will continue to support affected families in search, rescue & recovery , psychosocial support, distribuition of household items & tracing services to help link families with those reported missing in addition to assesment of other areas at risk of landslides.”

East Africa has been hit by destructive rains and flooding for the past several weeks, with downpours flooding Somalia and South Sudan and flash flooding and landslides killing dozens in Ethiopia and Tanzania. While floods hit the region regularly, scientists say the effect has been exacerbated by a climate phenomenon called the Indian Ocean Dipole, defined by a difference in temperature between the western and eastern areas of the ocean.

100 people were killed and thousands displaced by Kenyan landslides in April 2018.

ByChristen McCurdy