Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Disasters continue to happen in Kenya

IRIN: To illustrate the lack of disaster preparedness across East Africa, a cartoon in a weekly newspaper lists, tongue in cheek, the six chapters of the region's disaster preparedness and management blueprint. These range from visits by political dignitaries to the scene of disaster, declaration of days of mourning, calls for foreign aid, rhetoric, promises to take action, the blame game and finally, business as usual.

The situation in Kenya, especially concerning man-made disasters, seems to follow this script. IRIN looks at some potential "disasters waiting to happen", as well as recent incidents, focusing on the impact, immediate action taken and whether or not lessons learnt have resulted in better preparedness:
  • Railway line destruction across Kibera slum in Nairobi: In the event of a train crash, the impact would be deadly given the numbers of people living in the slum (said to be Africa's largest, with up to 200,000 people, according to the latest census) and the fact that structures have been built so close to the railway line.
  • Construction under electric power lines or close to petroleum pipelines: Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu are some of Kenya's main cities with such buildings, mostly in densely populated, low-income areas. In Kisumu city, the village of Usoma is located a few metres from the Kisumu Pipeline Depot.
  • Construction of residential buildings and other structures close to airports, such as Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, as well as airports and airstrips in towns such as Eldoret, Kitale (in the Rift Valley) and Kakamega (in Western Province). On 13 September, Internal Security Minister Orwa Ojode, speaking about the situation around JKIA, said: "This is a disaster in waiting. The government cannot take any more of such laxity and resistance to relocation. We must move with speed and save Kenyans from avoidable death traps."
  • ... Floods: So far, incidents of flooding reported in 2011 have not caused serious damage but weather experts and disaster preparedness officials have warned that parts of the country, especially the drought-affected northwest as well as Upper Eastern, could experience floods during the coming rainy season (October-November). In mid-2010, more than 60 people died and thousands more were displaced following floods and mudslides across the country, according to the Kenya Red Cross Society.

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