FLASH FLOODS

Kitui 'River of Doom' Enziu kills eight in a year

Sudden floods during rain in Mui Hills, police urge caution, say women cautious but men cross recklessly

In Summary

• On Thursday, education officers escorting Social Studies papers to Nuu after the KCPE exam waited for hours for the water to subside for them to cross. 

• On May 8, bodies of four people who had been missing after drowning in the river were successfully retrieved inside the Toyota Probox they had been travelling in. 

The wreckage of a car being retrieved from shores of River Enziu after it was swept away with four occupants on their way to a funeral in May.
RIVER OF DOOM: The wreckage of a car being retrieved from shores of River Enziu after it was swept away with four occupants on their way to a funeral in May.
Image: FILE

Rivers are usually treasured as streams of joy, sources of water for domestic use and irrigation, peaceful places to reflect or to splash around.

In Kitui county, where drought is common, many celebrate rain because the water shortage is addressed naturally as almost all rivers are seasonal. 

However, when rain pounds Nguni ward of Mwingi East subcounty where the famous River Enziu flows, the river can be deadly.

It's called the River of Doom because at least people have drowned in the past year, others have nearly drowned. Most were motorists on the Nguni-Nuu route. It's the most dangerous river in Kitui.

It flows from Kivou, Waita and Mui hills to Tana River.

When it pours, as it's doing now around Nguni, the river floods and many people look for a place to spend the night or wait for waters to subside.

Do not cross the river when the water is above your knees, it could sweep you to your death. Mwingi East subcounty police commander Joseph Yakan

On Thursday, Education officers taking Social Studies papers to the Nuu collection centre after the KCPE exam waited for five hours for water to subside so they could cross safely.

On Tuesday, a woman was forced to spend the night in the forest after she narrowly escaped drowning in the swollen river.

A week ago, onlookers wailed as they helplessly watched a lorry with four occupants being swept away.

Divers rescued them.

“Do not cross the river when the water is above your knees, it could sweep you to your death." Mwingi East subcounty police commander Joseph Yakan warned.

Be patient, he advised, adding that "men especially have a  habit of testing waters in swollen rivers.

"Women can spend the night at a neighbour's house but a man will risk crossing," he said.

Last year on March 15, a lorry carrying charcoal got stuck in heaps of sand.

Witness Kithome Musya said while people were trying to push the lorry out of the sand, the river suddenly flooded and swept the three occupants of the lorry to their deaths.

“There was no way we could help since we also feared for our lives. Enziu is dangerous," Kithome said.

The area might be dry, he said, but when it rains in other areas like Mui Hills, there can be flash floods.

On April 22, a driver for assistant county commissioner James Wanyoike narrowly escaped death as he tried to drive across. He was rescued by residents.

On May 8, the bodies of four people who had been missing after drowning were retrieved inside their car from a sandbank. They were on their way to attend a burial at Nuu.

The driver sent a text to his family saying they were stuck in the flooding river and in grave danger.

Officers from the National Youth Service, Kitui county government and the Kenya Red Cross Society camped at Enziu bridge for weeks trying to retrieve the bodies.

Retrieval took more than two weeks and many people were traumatised, especially family members who kept vigil.

While the search for the four was still on, a 17-year-old Machakos Boys student, drowned downstream at Ikuusya dam while swimming. The school captain drowned when the dam suddenly flooded after heavy rains in the Mui hills. 

On May 16, his body was found buried 15 feet under the river bed.

Like most dangerous rivers, Enziu has a bridge, however, it stalled more than three years ago when it was barely half complete.

In the ongoing tarmacking of the Nguni-Nuu Road, no bridge was included in the contract. 

Mwingi Central MP Gideon Mulyungi said he is sourcing for funds.

Edited by R.Wamochie 

Divers trying to locate four people who drowned last April after their car was swept away River Enziu as they headed to a burial.
DEADLY RIVER: Divers trying to locate four people who drowned last April after their car was swept away River Enziu as they headed to a burial.
Image: LINAH MUSANGI
Abandoned Enziu Bridge that has stalled for over three years now.
DEADLY RIVER: Abandoned Enziu Bridge that has stalled for over three years now.
Image: LINAH MUSANGI
Onlookers as they gathered after the drowning of four people last year.
DEADLY RIVER: Onlookers as they gathered after the drowning of four people last year.
Image: LINAH MUSANGI
Mwingi Central MP,Gideon Mulyungi[in specs]and Nguni MCA,Jefferson Kiruru crossing Enziu River last year April
DEADLY RIVER Mwingi Central MP,Gideon Mulyungi[in specs]and Nguni MCA,Jefferson Kiruru crossing Enziu River last year April
Image: LINAH MUSANGI