The torrential rains presently sweeping the East African region have now found another ‘outlet’ to cause disaster. The Ewaso Nyiro river, which traverses the Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba parks burst its banks and rose to what has been described as ‘unprecedented levels’ in a tsunami like wave of water. Safari lodges and safari camps like Samburu Serena Lodge, Samburu Lodge, Intrepids Camp and Larson’s Camp got flooded.
The elephant research centre and an affiliated smaller camp were ‘under water’ too, but at the onset of the fast rise of the river, staff in all locations alerted guests, evacuated them to higher grounds and rescued whatever could be carried away of the equipment, files and valuables from the affected properties.
However, with tents, rooms, restaurants, shops and public areas submerged, enormous damage has been done to the owners and management companies. The cost of replacements and rebuilding is estimated to run into millions of USD.
Some tourists, it was learned, were subsequently airlifted back to Nairobi to continue with their holiday in other parts of Kenya.
Kenya’s tourism crisis center immediately swung into action, coordinating the evacuation of tourists from the affected parks with the local and national authorities. The government also deployed rescue personnel immediately after the extent of the disaster became known.
According to a source in Nairobi the river bridges were badly damaged as debris, including huge trees, were swept up to the bridge pillars. It remains to be seen if safe crossing can be assured once the water subsides or whether repairs need to be carried out first.
This correspondent recalls similar circumstances in the late 1980’s, when the Samburu Serena Lodge was under water and the relatively new Larson’s Camp was completely swept away. Then, just as now, the deforestation in and around the Aberdare Mountains was blamed for the flash floods, following torrential rains in the main water catchment areas, where the soil was unable to absorb the massive quantities of rain, leading eventually to the type of flash flooding now seen again.
However, during the dry spells the Ewaso Nyiro river often almost dries up, showing clearly the affect deforestation and encroachment of forests has, in Kenya and of course the entire region and that governments must act now to stem this trend.
This correspondent expresses his relief that no one came to harm and naturally regrets the loss of property and damage to those safari lodges and camps.