Kenya: Severe floods ravage Nairobi. The Pope’s prayer for victims

Residents recover their belongings after the Nairobi river burst its banks in the Mathare Valley settlement in Nairobi. Photo:

Ongoing heavy rain causes severe flooding in Kenya. Some 170 people have died and 185,000 have been displaced since heavy rains battered the country since March, according to UN statistics.

By Sr. Francine-Marie Cooper and Linda Bordoni

At least 30 people have lost their lives in Kenya and tens of thousands have been displaced as the East African nation has been battered by heavy rain since mid-March. The intensification of downpours over the past week has led to mass flooding in over 21 counties.

The Kenyan Red Cross reports having carried out over 188 rescue operations since the onset of the rains in March.

The impact of the floods has also killed more than 3,000 farm animals and ruined over 25,000 acres of crops.

Nairobi bearing heaviest brunt

In Nairobi, where some of the heaviest rain has fallen, more than 30,000 people have been displaced, according to the United Nations.

On Tuesday, 18 people, including seven children, were stranded, and later rescued, the Kenya Red Cross Society said.

Edwin Sifuna, a senator in Nairobi County, said on social media that the local government there was “clearly overwhelmed,” and he called on the federal government for help.

The Nairobi River burst its banks and flooded the Marthare Valley settlement, destroying many of the makeshift homes and leaving people stranded on the rooftops.

Major highways have been submerged by floodwater, causing traffic jams across the country.

Other countries affected

Kenya is not the only East African country to be affected by the heavy rain over the past weeks.

Burundi also reports almost 100,00 displaced people, while at least 58 people have died in Tanzania. The unusually heavy rain is attributed to the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD).

The IOD – often called the “Indian Niño” because of its similarity to its Pacific equivalent – refers to the difference in sea-surface temperatures in opposite parts of the Indian Ocean.

Pope prays for victims of floods in Kenya

Pope Francis expresses closeness to all those affected by the severe floods that have devastated the East African country of Kenya causing at least 170 deaths, massive displacement and destruction.

Pope Francis on Wednesday, 1st March, asked for prayers of the many people who are suffering the effects of flooding in East Africa.

“I wish to convey to the people of Kenya my spiritual closeness at this time when a severe flood has tragically taken the lives of many of our brothers and sisters, injuring others and causing widespread destruction,” he said speaking during the General Audience.

He urged Christians to join him in prayer for those suffering brothers and sisters.

“I invite you to pray for all those who are suffering the effects of this natural disaster.  Even in the midst of adversity, let us remember the joy of the risen Christ,” he said.

The floods

Some 170 people have died and 185,000 have been displaced since heavy rains battered the country since March.

Kenyan authorities are discussing measures to tackle the disaster triggered by the unusually heavy monsoon rains, compounded by the El Nino weather patter have engulfed towns and rural areas in Kenya and in neighbouring Tanzania.

In the worst single incident, which killed nearly 50 villagers, a makeshift dam burst in the Rift Valley region before dawn on Monday, sending torrents of mud and water gushing down a hill and swallowing everything in its path

Source: Vatican News with BBC/ New York Times/ Red Cross Kenya.

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