Reporter’s Diary: Tales of Solai dam tragedy

Men from the village of Solai dig through a wall of mud in the hopes of retrieving a body believed to be trapped.

It’s been almost a week since Kenyans woke up to the tragedy of Patel dam located in Solai, Nakuru County. The dam burst through its banks causing a tragedy of monumental proportion. 47 people killed in the ensuing deluge, among them 16 children.

And life will no longer be the same for the at least 500 families now displaced. They are currently camping at the Solai Secondary school that has been closed indefinitely. CGTN’s Dinah Matengo did a spot check in the area and reports on the dire situation there.

Most of these families used to call the Energy and Nyakinyua villages home but they are now all clustered together inside a school located in an area unfamiliar to many of them.

Njoroge Nganga, one of the survivors counts himself lucky to be alive. On that fateful Wednesday night at around 8pm he heard the ravaging waters and rushed home to caution his family to leave immediately for safer grounds.

‘’I asked them to move to higher grounds and no sooner had I whisked them away than  the waters caught up with me forcing me to ran away and see if I could seek refuge at my neighbours place, only to find all houses washed away’’

Other survivors tell a story that almost sounds the same, but for one kid Newton Karanja, 7 years of age, he is yet to meet his parents, oblivious of the situation, Karanja said he went to bed early on that fateful Wednesday and upon waking up he found himself at the hospital bed.

The owner of the dam, Mansukhlal Patel has since come out to apologize for what happened. He’s being accused of constructing an unsafe dam.  He denies the claims made by the media that the dam was unsafe. However the Patel family has promised to help victims of the tragedy rebuild their lives.

Overall opinions of Patel and the way he handled the tragedy are mixed. Some say Mr. Patel has assisted the residents of the region by constructing schools, trade centres, clinics and he should not be castigated for the tragedy as it was a natural calamity. But others the dam burst is a result of Patel’s refusal to heed warnings from water management officials. Those flood victims want him to face the court of justice.

The Solai Nyakinyua Primary school that was badly affected is now in need of humanitarian support in form of books, desks and writing materials. Six of its classrooms were destroyed. According to the head teacher Stanley Njoroge, learning can’t resume until the debris is cleared off.

There are thousands of families whose shelter and livelihoods were literally swept away, their children are out of school and the disruption to their lives is huge. It should also be noted that the most areas had just come out of a debilitating drought and people were beginning to farm again. Many families say their crops were just about to flourish, then suddenly, floods swept them away.

This is the time to pool resources and give a helping hand to the affected until they can stand on their two feet. We must urgently seek long-term solutions to such disasters and create proper policies in building dams with those found culpable found in the crosshairs of the law.




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