There was heartbreak and disbelief in Nakuru on Friday as families of the Solai disaster victims combed the morgue to identify loved ones.
Stunned, they clung to hope they could find the bodies and at least give them a decent send-off.
Mary Wanjiku, mother of three, said she had lost her eight-year-old son. “I cannot tell where my son is. My children have been asking why we are not home, why we are not sleeping in our beds. I don’t know the fate of their brother. I do not want to imagine the worst,” Wanjiku said, sobbing.
Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Mwongo Chimwanga said 22 bodies have been positively identified at the Nakuru County Morgue.
“The death toll has increased to 45 after one body was retrieved this morning,” Chimwanga said. The number shot up later.
Residents feared more bodies could be buried in the mud or trapped inside the dreaded deep fault line fissures.
Alice Kerubo said her four children are unable to go to school as their house had been swept away by raging waters on Wednesday night.
“I can’t say when my children will go back to school,” the single mother said. “I do not know how I will ever manage to settle.”
Gladys Muthoni said her eight-month-old only child had contracted a severe cough and running nose due to exposure to the cold.
“I am not in a position to help her in any way,” Muthoni said.
The agony and numbness were shared by all as rains continued lashing the area that has become a swamp since the wall of water crashed down on Wednesday evening.
Destroyed villages are in the farmlands of Nyakinyua, Endao and Arutani where hundreds of people were displaced.
The Solai disaster, the country’s single highest flood-related incident, increased to 162 the number of people who have died countrywide since the long rains started in March.
On the ground, national government and Nakuru county teams were joined by the Red Cross to coordinate recovery missions.
A centre has been set up near the scene for relatives to register missing family members.
The government will investigate the structural integrity of all the country’s dams to ensure they are safe. A report will be made public.
The national and county governments, the Nakuru Lions Club and well-wishers have provided food and supplies to survivors. More than 350 families are camping at Solai Boys School.
“We will continue giving food and other supplies until they are fully settled. We urge stakeholders and well-wishers to help. Their suffering has been compounded by heavy rains,” said Shailesh Kumar, former Lions Club chairman.
Emergency workers, soldiers, police and volunteers are working round the clock to search for bodies, clear debris and restore power and communications.
Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika said the Senate will act on the Disaster Management Bill coming up next week for a second reading.
“We want disaster management units to be well equipped to ensure they move swiftly and save lives and property,” she said.