Solai residents soldier on after dam disaster - Beaking Kenya News

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Thursday, 28 February 2019

Solai residents soldier on after dam disaster

Solai dam

By ERIC MATARA
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The television cameras have left, dignitaries have stopped arriving in helicopters, and there are no longer convoys of vehicles racing on the road that connects Solai and the Nairobi-Nakuru highway with emergency medical care and food supplies.
Only humanitarian groups like Kenya Red Cross and Safaricom still visit the area, occasionally, to help survivors who are slowly rebuilding their lives.
Life has moved on for everyone, but the survivors of the Solai dam tragedy are still haunted by the dark event.
REMINDER
Although they are picking up the pieces, they still bear the scars and painful memories of the tragedy that claimed 48 lives and left behind a trail of destruction.
Almost 10 months later, huge boulders, partially ruined buildings and gullies characterise what was once a rich agricultural area, lush with crops.
The landscape still bears scars of the destruction the deluge left in its wake.
A visitor is welcomed by deep gullies that dot the affected villages, a grim reminder of the deadly waters that swept through them.
When the Nation visited the area, it caught up with Mr Paul Mwangi outside the new house he is building.
FARMING
He regretted that residents can no longer farm since the once fertile soil is now covered with rocks.
“Before the tragedy we planted various crops including maize and peas, but now the soil is rocky and unproductive. We cannot farm anymore unless the government helps restore the fertile top soil that was swept away,” Mr Mwangi, 68, said.
All the productive soil on a stretch of at least 15 kilometres was swept away.
The private dam burst its banks on the night of May 9, washing away Energy, Nyakinyua, Endao, Milmet and Arutani villages.
Things are beginning to return to normal. The shopping centre through which the floodwaters swept is slowly coming back to life, with a number of businesses that had closed reopening.
WATER
When the Nation team visited the affected villages, a number of permanent and semi-permanent houses were coming up, part of a restoration programme spearheaded by the Africa Inland Church (AIC) and Kenya Red Cross (KRS).
Contractors were putting the final touches on some houses and furnishing them.
KRS Secretary-General Abbas Gullet said his agency is keen to ensure that the survivors are assisted to lead normal lives.
The humanitarian organisation is also rehabilitating a borehole at Solai Nyakinyua Primary School, whose classrooms were swept away.
Safaricom helped rebuild the school, which was the most affected, and is also actively involved in the restoration. It has also partnered with Nakuru County to help the survivors.
“My administration is determined to ensure the survivors get back to their normal lives. I will ensure this happens as soon as possible,” Nakuru Governor Lee Njiru said when he launched the restoration initiative a few months ago.
COMPENSATION
Kenya Power and other corporates have also stepped in to restore water and electricity supply. The raging waters destroyed power lines and water pipes.
Survivors accuse some local administration and government officials of taking advantage of their plight to enrich themselves.
A woman who requested anonymity said that senior government officials and local politicians sneaked in the names of people not affected by the tragedy so that they could be compensated.
“Surprisingly, the administrators and politicians have gone scot free,” she said.
“In total, Sh35 million was provided by the Patels. Administrators and politicians received their share, not included the Sh35 million, for convincing some survivors to sign some forms. Desperate for cash, they did not study the documents keenly,” she said.
As a result, the survivors realised too late that what they had signed were discharge and indemnity forms intended to cushion the dam owner, Mr Perry Mansukhlal.

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