The Patel dam, located on private farmland in western Kenya, had burst its banks after weeks of heavy rain. The rain has pounded East Africa for over a month, killing more than 100 people in Kenya and displacing 260,000. Rwanda and Ethiopia also have been affected by flooding, and about 100,000 people have been displaced in Somalia.
Nearly 170 people have now died since March from floods caused by seasonal rains, according to Kenyan authorities. The floods hit as the East African nation was recovering from a severe drought that affected half of the country.
Close to 40 people were rescued from the mud and taken to hospitals on Thursday morning in operations by Kenya Red Cross and Nakuru County disaster management teams.
The area has 7 dams used by a commercial farm, said Keffa Mageni, an official with an advocacy group that helps to resettle displaced people. With the heavy seasonal rains the dams do not have an outlet, he said.
More than 225,000 people in Kenya have been displaced from their homes since March, according to the government. Military helicopters and personnel in the past week have been deployed to rescue people marooned by the flooding.
The dam burst has again raised concerns about the state of Kenya’s infrastructure. The National Construction Authority in the past has blamed contractors for bypassing building codes to save on cost.
Wednesday’s burst submerged buildings across a 1.2-mile radius, including homes and a primary school. “Many people are missing. It is a disaster,” said Joseph Kioko, a police chief in Rongai, Nakuru County.
Poor infrastructure has repeatedly set up dangerous situations for Kenya’s rainy season, where flooding is common. Last year, the wall of a hospital in the city of Mombasa caved in because of rains, killing six. And in 2016, an entire residential building collapsed, killing 52 people.