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Kenya, Tanzania Brace for Cyclone Amid Deadly Rains
Kenya, Tanzania Brace for Cyclone Amid Deadly Rains
| May 2, 2024

Floodwaters cover a bridge in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, leaving dozens of tourists stranded in Narok County, Kenya, on May 1, 2024. Photo: AFP

Kenya and Tanzania were bracing Thursday for a cyclone on the heels of torrential rains that have devastated East Africa, killing more than 350 people and forcing tens of thousands from their homes.

In addition to claiming 188 lives in Kenya since March, the floods have displaced 165,000 people, with 90 reported missing, the interior ministry said, as the government warned citizens to remain on alert.

“Crucially, the coastal region is likely to experience Cyclone Hidaya, which will result in heavy rainfall, large waves and strong winds that could affect marine activities in the Indian Ocean,” the office of Kenyan President William Ruto said.

Neighboring Tanzania, where at least 155 people have been killed in flooding and landslides, is also expected to feel the force of Hidaya.

“The presence of Hidaya Cyclone … is expected to dominate and affect the weather patterns in the country including heavy rain and strong winds in some Regions near Indian Ocean,” the Tanzania Red Cross Society said on X, formerly Twitter.

Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is among the areas expected to suffer heavy rains over the next two days, the Kenya Meteorological Department said on X.

The heavier-than-usual rains have also cost at least 29 lives in Burundi, with 175 people injured and tens of thousands displaced since September last year, the United Nations said.

Stranded tourists

Earlier this week Ruto announced he was deploying Kenya’s military to evacuate everyone living in flood-prone areas.

In a bulletin released Thursday evening, the Interior Ministry ordered anyone living close to major rivers or near 178 “filled up or near filled up dams or water reservoirs” to vacate the area within 24 hours, warning that they would otherwise face “mandatory evacuation for their safety.”

The devastation has also affected Kenya’s tourism sector — a key economic driver — with some 100 tourists marooned in the famed Maasai Mara wildlife reserve on Wednesday after a river overflowed, flooding lodges and safari camps.

Rescuers later managed to evacuate 90 people by ground and air, the Interior Ministry said.

The area is currently inaccessible with bridges washed away, Narok West subcounty administrator Stephen Nakola told AFP, adding that about 50 camps in the reserve have been affected, putting more than 500 locals temporarily out of work.

There are no fatalities, but communities living around the area have been forced to move away.

“Accessing the Mara is now a nightmare, and the people stuck there are really worried. They don’t have an exit route,” Nakola said, adding that waterborne diseases were likely to emerge.

“I am worried that the situation could get worse because the rains are still on.”

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