In Summary
  • About 10 million litres of water was retained as 90 per cent of the dam’s volume poured downstream.
  • Nakuru County government will do its best to evacuate affected families and assist victims get medical attention.

The rumble at about 8pm on Wednesday sounded like a faint clap of thunder.

Elija Chege stepped out of his single-room house at Energy Village in Solai, Nakuru, to check what was happening as the sky had been clear just a few minutes earlier.

Then he heard the rumble; loud, louder, and ominous. It did not sound like the usual cacophony of rain drops on the greenhouses of Patel Coffee Estates behind the hills.

This was a strange rumble, and it was shaking the soft earth under his feet.

DAM BURSTS

The village erupted in chaos as the 41-year-old mason and his neighbours ran for their lives, some towards Solai Shopping Centre, others in the opposite direction.

“We didn’t know what to do, or what we were running away from,” Chege told the Nation in the village on Thursday as the gravity of what he had escaped from started sinking in.

Energy Village, the small farming village he has called home for years, is no more.

Where houses stood, mud rests calmly, burying in its muted horror tens of men, women and children.

The rumble Chege had run away from was 70 million litres of water cascading towards him and his neighbours after a private dam used by Patel Coffee Estates burst its retaining walls.

Some managed to escape, many others didn’t.

CASUALTIES

Officials from the Water Resources Management Authority told the Nation only about 10 million litres of water was retained as 90 per cent of the dam’s volume poured downstream towards Energy and Marigu settlements.

A statement by the National Disaster Management Unit Deputy Director Pius Masai puts the number of dead locals at 44, 41 are admitted in hospital and 40 are missing.

The village hosted about 60 homesteads on plots measuring an eighth of an acre each, and was home to hundreds of casual labourers who earn a living from the coffee estate irrigated by the dam, the flower farms that dot Solai, and other plantations.

As the 70 million litres of water hurtled towards the residents, it formed a powerful wave about a metre-and-a-half high which swept away everything in its 500-metre-wide path.

TRAUMA
The destruction was buried by the eerie dark of the Wednesday night, but became evident when the sun shone its light on Solai Thursday morning.

Cars had been swept away and slammed into buildings which were, in turn, washed away to their foundations.

“This will haunt me for a long time,” John Mbuthia, who ran a shop at Solai trading centre, said.

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