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Heavy rains come with both misery and benefits in Kenya

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- After a dry spell that characterized the better part of this year, Kenya is currently experiencing heavy rains that have disrupted lives in many parts of the East African nation.

Some houses have been swept away while others flooded, transport network in some places has been cut off and there has been an increase in road accidents due to the rains.

At least three people have so far been reported dead as a result of the rains that started some two weeks ago.

“Much of the country is likely to experience enhanced rainfall driven by warmer than average Sea Surface Temperatures over the western Equatorial Indian Ocean adjacent to the East African coastline,” the Meteorological Department announced last week in the weather outlook for the October-November-December “short rains” season.

During the forecast period, the weatherman warned of rise in diseases associated with excessive water such as malaria, rise in road accidents due to slippery roads and flash floods.

In the capital of Nairobi, the rains which sometimes start early morning or in the afternoon have become residents’ worst nightmare.

The rains have made life a little difficult especially when it comes to traffic. When it rains, the city’s traffic stalls making one spend up to four hours on the road.

“On Monday it rained early morning and it took me three-and-a-half hours to reach the city center from Utawala, yet I usually use about an hour,” said George Ndegwa, a pharmacist in Nairobi.

Ndegwa, who drives from his home on the outskirts of Nairobi daily, said most of the roads were flooded leading to a heavy snarl-up.

“Rains usually remind us how bad our city is in terms of drainage and the narrow roads, which become impassable. It is time we act and change things so that Nairobi is rain-proof,” he said.

Others hit by the rains are small traders, who sell their products in open air markets, some that have been made inhabitable by the heavy rains.

“I sell my clothes in the open air but it becomes very difficult with the heavy rains. Sometimes they begin early morning ruining our sources of livelihood,” said Mary Mukami, a trader at Gikomba, the largest second-hand goods market in Kenya.

A good number of Nairobi residents are now opting to leave the city center as early as 3 p.m. to avoid being caught up in inconveniences caused by the rains.

“I have changed my schedule, for the past weeks I have been arriving at the office by 7 a.m. and then leave the city centre by 4 p.m. It is the only way to beat the rains because once there is a downpour, traffic is disrupted and fares double,” said Boniface Muteti, a researcher at a public university.

Across the country, the heavy rains have left a trail of misery and destruction. At least two people were reportedly killed in Marsabit, northern Kenya, after they were swept away by floods.

Some 3,500 livestock have been said to have been killed by the rains that have been pounding the region for the last two weeks.

Several bridges and key roads have also been destroyed in different parts of the country due to the heavy rains, including in Kwale at the Coast and Turkana.

In Mombasa, the tourist city, motorists were stranded for hours on Monday on the major highway leading to Nairobi due to heavy rains.

The heavy snarl-ups have disrupted business for buses heading to the capital Nairobi while a good number of air passengers have missed flights due to the rains.

And Tuesday morning, a governor in the East African nation, Wahome Gakuru of Nyeri, died in a road accident after his vehicle veered off the road following heavy rains that led to slippery roads, according to the police.

“Rains are a blessing but in Kenya they have become a curse mainly due to poor planning especially of our drainage and our disaster response is also bad, but with rains come many benefits including food security and stable power,” said Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi.

The meteorological department last week advised farmers to take advantage and make use of the good rains to maximize crop production.

“High surface water run-offs would also register average to above average inflows into rivers Sondu Miriu, Tana and Athi. This is expected to increase the water levels in dams, and improve the capacity for hydroelectric power generation in the hydropower dams,” said the department.



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