A family outing to the World’s famous Hells Gate National park ended on a tragic note after six of them and their guide was swept by flash floods Sunday evening.
The six family members were part of a group of 13 family members from Nairobi who had taken an afternoon visit to the park that is known for its beehive of activities.
The accident came seven years after a similar incident left seven youths from PCEA Nairobi dead after been swept by the floods.
In the latest incident, the group accompanied by two guides went to the gorge after been assured that it was safe despite the drizzle.
Family members who spoke to the press narrated their ordeal as the floods swept their kin one after the other as they watched in horror.
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A family member Ivraj Singh Hayer saw his wife slide and was swept before his cousin left and soon after his nephew and niece.
A tearful Hayer said they had been informed that the area was safe and that the guides would control them in case of an emergency.
He said although it began to drizzle, they had been told that it last rained in April so there was no cause for alarm.
“We did not see any problem with us going down to the gorges and we met others on their way out so it was all safe until the unthinkable happened,” he said.
He said six of the family members jumped on one side and were lucky the floods did not get to them adding that the rest were all swept.
“The guide was trying to save my nephew and they both slipped and were swept by the floods,” he said.
The bodies were found about 30kms from the scene of the tragedy following a major exercise conducted by locals, Red Cross, KWS and police..
Hayer’s brother Dilraj Singh told of how he received a distress call from one of the family members and tried to call officers from KWS but no help was forthcoming.
“We have not received a call from KWS as of now and we are still waiting but we thank residents from this area for their tireless efforts to trace the bodies of our family members”.
KWS Central Rift Assistant Director Aggrey Maumo led search efforts in the vast Suswa hills where the bodies were found kilometres apart.
Addressing the press, Maumo said the tragedy occurred after heavy rains pounded the hilly areas of Longonot with stormwater finding its way to the gorges.
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While terming the incident as unfortunate, Maumo termed the park as safe for anyone to visit.
“We will not close the gorges contrarily to information out there and this should not deter anyone from visiting this park,” he said.
A community leader Maenka Ole Kisotu regretted the incident saying it was all caused by human activities on the environment.
Kisotu said massive environmental degradation had taken place in the area with charcoal burning being an everyday job.
“There is no vegetation here and once it rains we must have casualties and our animals are not spared either,” he added.
Antony Gitonga/The Star