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Kenyans brace for worses El Nino rains in 18 years

09 October 2015, 18:35

Nairobi - Roads' drainage systems and roofs in Kenya are being repaired hurriedly before the El Nino rains start.

Farmers, particularly those growing maize, have also rushed to harvest their crops so that they are not be destroyed by the rains.

Citizens living in flood and landslide prone areas have been asked to relocate to safer grounds to prevent death and destruction of property.

The Kenyan government has announced that it has set aside up to 144 million U.S. dollars, part of the money came from donors, to mitigate the effects of the El Nino rains.

A special team consisting of cabinet secretaries and another from officials from various state agencies, including the disaster management and health sectors, have been formed to coordinate the efforts to mitigate the expected damage the rains will cause.

Kenya is in frenzy as both citizens and the government brace for the worst rains in about 20 years. Weather experts have warned that the rains will cause displacement of people, a flood of diseases and destruction of property.

Also read: Toddler's head reattached to body after accident

While the government is repairing roads, sourcing for funds to help expected victims and ensuring awareness is at its peak, ordinary Kenyan has bought gumboots, sweaters and repaired their roofs to stop the rains.

In Nairobi, others have moved houses, shifting to places they consider safer.

"Our forecast indicates that there will be enhanced rainfall over much of the country during the 'short rains' (October-December) season in Kenya. In some parts, the rains may extend into January 2016," said the Meteorological Department in its forecast released this week.

"Heavy storms are likely to occur during the season, and more so, during the rainfall peak month of November," added the forecast.

The government agency noted that flooding and mudslides will occur in western region, Lower Tana, Nandi Hills and Central Kenya (Murang'a).

"Cases of malaria and other water-borne related diseases may increase due to the expected enhanced rainfall. The likelihood of the outbreak of Rift Valley Fever is potentially likely in North Eastern parts of the country and at the Coast," according to the department.

Waterborne diseases and vectors are also expected to lead to possible upsurge of dengue fever, schistosomiasis, typhoid, cholera and lymphatic filariasis.

The last time the El Ninorains visited Kenya was in 1997. Then, the impact was huge, with citizens and animals losing lives, crops were destroyed and property decimated.

These images are still fresh in the minds of Kenyans, particularly those in their mid-20s and above. While the expected rains may not be as intense as those of 1997, according to the weatherman, Kenyans are not taking chances.

Awareness about the El Nino rains in the East African, this time round, is at its peak, including among schoolchildren who have been asked not to shelter under trees when it is raining to prevent cases of them being struck by lightning, which are on the rise.

"I cannot take chances with the rains. I shifted from Nairobi West to South B to avoid being inconvenienced by the rains. When it rained heavily about two months ago, the roads and houses in Nairobi West were flooded and I ended up spending a night at a friend's house," said accountant Collins Otieno Thursday.

However, while the El Nino alerts have helped create awareness, they have caused fear among citizens, with some expecting doom.

"Most residents believe that they will not survive when the rains start because of the alerts," said Mathare slum social worker Salome Wanjiku. In the slum district for instance, residents have been asked to relocate to safer grounds.

"It is good advice but where do they go? Some residents have panicked and others are losing hope, expecting nothing but doom. They are coming to us but for help but we do not know how to advise them," she said.

National Disaster Operations Centre Director Nathan Kigotho said the organisation has contingency plans to ensure operations run smoothly within the El Ninorains period and have established an emergency centre in the capital Nairobi to coordinate any efforts to alleviate losses.

However, it may not be all doom when the rains start. Kenya Tea Development Agency has noted that the El Nino rains are likely to boost production after a drought earlier in the year, which cut output by up to 80 percent.

According to the Meteorological Department, food security during the season is expected to improve significantly, particularly in the eastern and northern parts of Kenya.

"Major river catchment areas for hydroelectric power generating dams will above average rainfall. This will lead to increased water levels in dams, and increased capacity for hydroelectric power generation in the hydropower dams," said the department.

- Xinhua

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