Geologists to study 4km crack ripping houses apart in Kisii

County team led by governor's wife visited the victims and provided them with food

In Summary

• At the ridges, more houses are continuing to tip over, county geologist says it is a matter of time before they sink altogether. 

• By last week Thursday, at least 150 people from 57 households around the escarpment were ordered out of their houses. 

A cracked wall.
MUDSLIDE-PRONE: A cracked wall.

A gaping crack sinking houses in Manga, Kisii county, will undergo further tests from a battery of senior geologists from Nairobi. 

The team is next week on Tuesday next expected to study the crack that stretched four kilometres and has displaced dozens of residents. 

By last week Thursday, at least 150 people from 57 households around the escarpment were ordered out of their houses–many of them condemned after the crack ripped them apart late last month. 

Regions around Nyabworoba and Nyabotenene in Sensi, Kitutu Chache North, have born the brunt of the geological phenomenon according to MCA Paul Angwenyi. 

The victims have currently pitched camp at Nyabworoba primary and secondary schools and as the opening inches closer, officials are looking for an alternative place to accommodate them.

"They must be given alternative accommodation to allow learning to resume," Angwenyi said. 

At the ridges, more houses are continuing to tip over. County geologist Cleophas Manyara says it is a matter of time before they sink altogether. 

"A casual observation shows that the sinking has gradually been going on for weeks and the effects are observable," Manyara told journalists during a tour of the region on Sunday. 

The crack has already sunk some farms creating severe contours in its wake. So intense is the force, some residents said, that the crack has in some places ripped apart huge boulders lying along its pathway. 

Those displaced said 'the force came with a huge roaring tremor as they slept'.

"Our houses began to dance like reeds in the wind before being torn asunder as we watched," a victim said. 

Gladys Clement told the Star the situation in her home is further compounded by the sinking of her crops and trees. 

"I have no prospect of harvesting anything after my maize farm sunk. My small tea farm was not spared either,"  Clement said.

Her two houses bear the signature of the crack. They have begun to sink and some walls have already caved in.

Disaster officials have warned that the houses may go down any minute.

Water masses from the escarpment are sending water down into the houses making the situation grave, deputy county commissioner David Sarun said.

"It is definitely a rush against time for any other person who thinks it is safe to sleep there. I am, however, happy many of them have since heeded the call to vacate," he told journalists. 

A team from the county led by Governor James Ongwae's wife Elizabeth Ongwae visited the victims and provided them with food. Ongwae said the situation was still dire and that "prospects for disease outbreaks are stark if no urgent steps are made to address the issue". 

"Though we have brought some food supplies, danger still remains. The people are crammed into classrooms with little or no bedding at all. It is definitely a situation compounded by challenges that need a quick solution," she said. 

Geologist Manyara said the team of geologists from the Ministry of Mining is to give an expert opinion if the ground was still firm to support life or they will be moved out. "There is more to be studied, one of them being the Lake Okaria effect in all this."

"We suspect it is passing water through the underground tunnels down the ridges thus affecting the solidity of the earth's surface," he said.

The geologists, he said, will be in Kisii soon. "Communication has been done and they should be around any time next week." 

Manyara said a similar geological phenomenon like in Manga was affecting residents at Nyasasa in South Mugirango where more than 600 people had been staying in schools after their houses were destroyed by flash floods. 

Area MP Sylvanus Osoro has since asked that they are given alternative land by the government. He says the slope where they had been residing over the years poses constant grave danger to them. The region, Osoro said, was prone to mudslides. 

The MP said the government has contingency funds that should be used to resettle the displaced. 

He said water seepages had been a constant thorn in the flesh of the residents, "many of them poor". He said moving them out of the region will avert a catastrophe. 

" Before we see someone rushing here with body bags and coffins, let these people be given land to settle. The government has the capacity to do do," the MP said.

Aid so far extended to the more than 600 victims was little in the face of the conditions they are facing, Osoro said. 

In Manga, county commissioner Stephen Kihara said the government may vacate more people if the crack persists. One house had reportedly sunk decades ago giving disaster teams a clue of the fluidness of the situation they are faced with.

" We have also discovered the presence of this mysterious water mass. We thus have every reason to fear for the worst if more houses built near it go down too," Disaster director Nicodemus Orito said.

He said evacuation still remained an option if experts advised it. 

"On close scrutiny, we have realised that additional batches may be required to move out if the crack persists further downwards," he told the Star.

Kihara said some people will be moved by force if further signs indicate impending danger.

"We are happy some have heeded the order and moved here to Nyabworoba primary and secondary school to avoid the anticipated landslide. This will give the geologists time to study the issue properly," the administrator said. 

On Sunday, resident Thomas Getuma said, “I have lived here for years, this is just shocking, I have never seen anything like this." 

Elders say a mysterious 'Engoro ya Mwaga'–an abyss atop the escarpment which according to historical narratives "leads all the way to Lake Victoria", may be the reason for the geological occurrence. 

"There is definitely something to with it," resident Juma Sakawa said.

An initial security report pointed to a "sudden wave of suspected landslide". 

The cracks, the report said, are huge and they pose a grave danger to the occupants of houses already affected.

In South Mugirango, Osoro wants Interior CS Fred Matiang'i to help those displaced "most of whom are his kin". 

Edited by R.Wamochie 

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