Chesogon tragedy: State deploys KDF for search, rescue

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A KDF soldier arrives for search and rescue at Chesegon trading centre on the border of Elgeyo-Marakwet and West Pokot Counties on April 21, 2020. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA

The government has deployed soldiers from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) to search for dozens of people still missing following tragic flash floods in Chesogon along the Elgeyo-Marakwet-West Pokot border.

The soldiers have taken over the search and rescue mission as local leaders asked for urgent humanitarian support for over 4,000 people displaced by the floods and mudslides.

On Wednesday morning, President Uhuru Kenyatta said he had ordered for deployment of the soldiers.

“We have acted quickly to help those affected. We have sent the soldiers to the areas to assist in rescuing those who have suffered most during this time,” he said during a pool interview with journalists from various radio stations at State House, Nairobi.

On Tuesday, Kenya Red Cross officials said they had found two more bodies, raising the number of those killed to 14.

Over 20 people are still missing following last Saturday’s tragedy that totally destroyed Chesogon shopping centre.

Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya said the search for the missing would go on.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said he had ordered
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President Uhuru Kenyatta said he had ordered for deployment of the soldiers. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He visited the affected areas accompanied by local leaders including Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary Jebii Kilimo.

“We appreciate the efforts by the government to find those missing. We have seen the police officers and the KDF here. This is a serious tragedy,” said Ms Kilimo.

CHILDREN MISSING

Meanwhile, the search for people still missing entered its fourth day on Wednesday with residents saying they were yet to find 17 school-going children since the Saturday tragedy.

Most of the parents who have reported missing children are from Embobut escarpment where raging waters started flowing before sweeping away Chesegon market at the valley.

Embobut/Embolot Ward MCA Paul Kipchumba said 10 pupils from Mungwo primary school, 4 from Cheptany primary, 1 from Chemisto primary and 1 student each from Kipkaner and Tot secondary schools have so far been reported missing.

Residents struggle to to walk through mud at
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Residents struggle to to walk through mud at Chesegon area. PHOTO | OSCAR KAKAI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“Most of these missing school children are from the hills where the floods started. Majority of them were either out playing with friends or tending farms now that they are out of school due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mr Yatich.

The MCA said the moment the floods started and water begun moving downwards carrying with them huge boulders of rocks, most of the children who had sheltered in trees and temporary structures started running towards their homes.

“It is during this struggle to save themselves from being swept away that most of them were overpowered by the water and mud flowing downwards,” he added.

The leader also said that apart from the missing 17, bodies of three other children have so far be retrieved from the mud.

David Chelang’a, a headteacher at Cheptany Primary School, confirmed that parents have reported four missing children from the institution.

“Two of the children missing are our candidates. The other two are from classes seven and two,” said Mr Chelang’a.

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