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Kenya: Cyclone Hidaya threatens flood-hit region

May 3, 2024

More than 200 people have died in Kenya and thousands have been displaced due to heavy rains since March. With powerful Cyclone Hidaya expected to make landfall this weekend, more people may have to leave their homes.

A firefighter motions to direct traffic, as people walk in a flooded street in Kitengela municipality of Kajiado County, near Nairobi, Kenya May 1, 2024
Rescue teams have been working around the clock to save people trapped by high watersImage: Thomas Mukoya/REUTERS

Flash floods and heavy rains in Kenya that began in the middle of March have killed more than 200 people, the country's Interior Ministry said on Friday.

It said 22 were killed in the last 24 hours.

Kenya and neighboring Tanzania have been grappling with devastating flooding and downpours since the onset of the rainy season. The severe weather has killed some 155 people in Tanzania so far.

"Sadly, we have not seen the last of this perilous period, as the situation is expected to escalate. Meteorological reports paint a dire picture," Kenyan President William Ruto said.

People are seen near a flooded river in the Mathare slums in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 30, 2024
The heavy rains have caused devastating flash floods in Kenya Image: IMAGO/Xinhua

Kenya and Tanzania brace for Cyclone Hidaya

Now Kenya and Tanzania are bracing for impact from a massive storm, Cyclone Hidaya, expected to make landfall in Tanzania on Saturday.

Tanzanian authorities on Friday said Hidaya "strengthened to reach the status of a full-fledged cyclone" earlier in the day. At the time, the cyclone was some 400 kilometers (248 miles) away from the coastal Tanzanian city of Mtwara.

"Cyclone Hidaya has continued to strengthen further, with wind speeds increasing to about 130 kilometers per hour," Tanzanian authorities said in a weather bulletin. 

The Kenyan Interior Ministry said the cyclone was expected to bring strong winds and large ocean waves, along with heavy rainfall. The Kenyan government has ordered people living near 178 dams and reservoirs that are either full or nearly full to evacuate or be forcefully moved.

Dozens dead after dam bursts in Kenya

Thousands displaced

So far, more than 165,000 people have been uprooted from their homes in Kenya due to flooding and rains. At least 90 people were missing as of Friday, raising fears that the death toll could rise further.

Schools were originally set to reopen this week, but the Education Ministry has now postponed that by a week. 

Some displaced people have been living in schools, while the government prepares to relocate them to camps. 

The heavy rains have also affected hundreds of people in Burundi, Ethiopia and Somalia.

rm/nm (AFP, AP)