NAIROBI, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- At least 61 people were killed and thousands more displaced by massive flooding caused by El Nino rains across Kenya as the East African country suffers an increased intensity in climate risks.
The Kenya Red Cross Society puts the number of those displaced by raging floods at more than 80,000. The humanitarian agency further noted that more than eight people swept away by raging flood waters are missing and some 235 people have been injured.
Michael Ayabei, Kenya Red Cross head of Disaster Management, warned that the situation is worsening as the rains continue, with the country's Meteorological Department predicting rainfall to persist until January.
Hundreds of homes have been washed away or marooned by floods, farms submerged, and livestock drowned, especially in semi-arid areas where pastoralism is the economic mainstay. The dry areas were still recovering from the devastating effects of the worst drought in 40 years, which afflicted Kenya for about a year, ending in March.
The drought and the El Nino rains, alongside extreme temperatures, are among the effects of climate change that Kenya and other countries in the Horn of Africa region are grappling with. The most affected areas in Kenya include Garissa, Mandera, Samburu, Wajir and Marsabit in the northern region; Kisumu and Homa Bay in the western region; Makueni and Kitui in the eastern part of the country, as well as Kilifi, Tana River and Mombasa on the coast.
While some areas have experienced flash floods due to intense rains elsewhere, heavy rains persist in others. In certain northern counties like Wajir, the capital of Wajir County, the entire town is flooded, with the rains severing the road network. Schools, hospitals, businesses, government offices, police stations and places of worship are among those submerged, halting normal activities.
The heavy rains have also triggered landslides in some areas, displacing people who had sought refuge on higher ground.
The Kenyan government on Monday said that 33 out of the 47 counties have been affected by floods. Cabinet Secretary of the Interior and National Administration Kithure Kindiki said in a statement issued Monday in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, that disaster response and security teams have been activated and in the short term are identifying locations that are likely to be marooned for action.
"Temporary shelters for the displaced persons in the evacuation centers, mostly schools and social halls, will be provided," Kindiki said, adding that the government had put on alert teams from Kenya Coast Guard, National Police Service, Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) and Kenya Wildlife Service to assist in rescue missions and distribution of relief food.
Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are bearing the brunt of climate change effects, according to the United Nations. In March, more than 4 million Kenyans, mainly in arid areas, were on the brink of starvation due to drought.
The World Bank, in its "Country Climate and Development Report" for Kenya released on Nov. 15, noted that Kenya remains vulnerable to frequent climatic shocks that pose significant economic risks.
The global lender said that the country risks failing to achieve middle-income status if it does not address the climate challenges. "In a business-as-usual scenario, climate inaction under different climate futures could dampen real GDP by 1.25 percent to 2.4 percent by 2030 and 3.61 percent to 7.25 percent by 2050."
It warned that failure to act on climate change will set back the country's poverty reduction efforts by increasing the number of poor people by up to 1.1 million by 2050. ■