Huge destruction as Kenya dam bursts

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A dam burst in Kenya on Wednesday night after heavy rain, causing “huge destruction” and killing at least 27 people, police say.

The breach happened on farmland near the town of Solai, 190km (120 miles) north-west of the capital, Nairobi.

The dead are thought to include children and women trapped in mud.

The Kenyan Red Cross says it has rescued some 40 people so far. More than 2,000 people are said to have been left homeless.

Local officials say the full extent of the damage is not yet clear.

There are fears the death toll could rise as the search-and-rescue operation continues.

Nakuru County police chief Gideon Kibunjah said that 27 bodies had been recovered so far.

This included 11 bodies, mostly of women and children, covered with mud at a coffee plantation, an unnamed police officer told AFP news agency.

It seemed that they had been fleeing, but “could not make it due to the force and speed of the water from the flooded dam”, the officer added.

Blind neighbour dies

The Patel dam, located on the upper end of private farmland, broke its walls and swept away a primary school and hundreds of homes downstream.

Witnesses said they heard a loud bang before the waves swept through nearly 2km (1.2 miles) of farmland where many live and work.

“The water has caused huge destruction of both life and property. The extent of the damage has yet to be ascertained,” said Lee Kinyajui, governor of Nakuru County.

Survivor Veronica Wanjiku Ngigi, 67, told Reuters news agency that she was at home brewing tea when her son’s wife rushed in to say they needed to get to higher ground as the dam had burst.

“It was a sea of water. My neighbour was killed when the water smashed through the wall of his house. He was blind so he could not run. They found his body in the morning,” she was quoted as saying.

“My other neighbours also died. All our houses have been ruined,” Ms Ngigi added.

The Patel dam is one of three reservoirs owned by a large-scale farmer in the area.

Its walls are said to have caved in due to the high volumes of water following heavy rains that have been pounding the country.

Local leaders are now seeking to find out whether the farmer was licensed to erect those dams, amid concerns about the condition of the remaining two which are also said to be full.

The toll now brings to nearly 160 the number of people who have died countrywide as a result of heavy rains since March, according to official statistics.

More than 220,000 people have also had their homes destroyed.