155 killed in Tanzania as heavy rains lash East Africa

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania: At least 155 people have died in Tanzania as torrential rains linked to El Nino triggered flooding and landslides, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said on Thursday.

Tanzania and other countries in East Africa — a region highly vulnerable to climate change — have been pounded by heavier than usual rainfall during the current rainy season, with dozens of deaths also reported in Kenya.

Majaliwa said the rains have affected more than 51,000 households and 200,000 people, with 155 fatalities and 236 injuries.

“The heavy El Nino rains, accompanied by strong winds, floods, and landslides in various parts of the country, have caused significant damage,” Majaliwa told parliament in Tanzania’s capital, Dodoma.

He added: “These include loss of life, destruction of crops, homes, citizens’ property, and infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and railways.”

El Nino is a naturally occurring climate pattern typically associated with increased heat worldwide, drought in some parts of the world, and heavy rains elsewhere. 

It can have a devastating impact on East Africa.

In Burundi, around 96,000 people have been displaced by months of relentless rains.

In addition, about 45 people have been killed in Kenya since the start of the rainy season in March, including 13 who lost their lives in flash floods in the capital, Nairobi, this week.

Kenyan President William Ruto convened an emergency multi-agency meeting on Thursday to respond to the crisis after torrential rains triggered floods that caused chaos across the city, blocking roads and bridges and engulfing homes in slum districts.

Kenyans have been warned to stay on alert, with more heavy rains forecast across the country. Officials said people living in the most vulnerable areas would be relocated.

“The government … will do whatever it takes, apply all the required resources in terms of money and personnel to make sure that lives are not lost and the people of Kenya are protected from this disaster,” Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua told a press briefing.

Meanwhile, the UN humanitarian response agency OCHA said in an update this week that in Somalia, the Gu (April to June) rains are intensifying, with flash floods reported since April 19.

It said four people had been reportedly killed, and at least 134 families or more than 800 people were affected or displaced across the country.

Late last year, more than 300 people died in torrential rains and floods in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia just as the region was trying to recover from its worst drought in four decades that left millions of people hungry.

From October 1997 to January 1998, massive floods caused more than 6,000 deaths in five countries in the region.

In March, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said that El Nino, which peaked in December, was one of the five strongest ever recorded.

Though the weather pattern is gradually weakening, its impact will continue over the coming months by fueling the heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases, it said.

Therefore, the WMO said in a quarterly update that “above normal temperatures are predicted over almost all land areas between March and May.”

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