Transport services have been paralysed between Kanyamkago in Migori County and Kanyikela in Homa Bay County after a key bridge that connects the two areas collapsed due to the ongoing heavy rains.
Oria-Riat Bridge along River Kuja collapsed early Wednesday morning when a fully-loaded truck carrying sugarcane was crossing the river to Sukari Industries, a local private sugar miller.
No casualties were reported.
“I have sent officers to the scene to investigate what happened. The truck driver was alone when the bridge collapsed early in the morning. He is in a stable condition at a local clinic,” said Ndhiwa Sub-county Police Commander Robert Aboko.
The bridge was built more than 40 years ago.
South Kanyikela Chief Moses Ongong’a said the metallic bridge was constructed in 1977 and has been used to transport sugarcane from farms to the industry based in Riata trading centre for processing.
The bridge also serves pupils at Otange primary and students of Otange and Minyere secondary schools.
“Some students hail from Migori and would cross the river every morning and evening to go to school. The bridge is also used by workers at the milling plant. Most people had not crossed from one side to the other when it collapsed,” Mr Ongonga said.
The accident has resulted in total paralysis of transport between Homa Bay and Migori as residents called on their leaders to put up a footbridge across River Kuja to ease the movement of people.
Mr Fredrick Sije, a resident, claimed truck drivers transporting sugarcane have been defying warnings not to use the bridge when their vehicles are fully loaded.
“Trucks drivers have always been advised to use Ongito bridge through Amoyo trading centre to minimise risks at the weak bridge. Oria-Riat bridge does not support heavy loads but most drivers have continuously disregarded the danger,” he said.
He called on leaders and the management of Sukari Industry to move with speed and construct a footbridge to ease the movement of students and traders across the two counties.
In Nyatike sub-county, pupils of Angugo, Kabuto and Nyora primary schools failed to report to class for the start of the third term following flash floods that have swept through the area.
The ongoing heavy downpour has already seen over 800 families rendered homeless for close to a month, weeks after River Kuja broke its banks, flooding several villages in the area.
Compounded with the backflow from Lake Victoria, villages of Angugo, Nyora, Modi and Lwanda are inhabitable, with the affected populace seeking shelter in schools and calling on the government for help.
Migori County commissioner Mr Boaz Cherutich said a team comprising the Red Cross, education officials and local administration had been dispatched to “assess the situation”.
“I have directed the education ministry, local administration and the Kenya Red Cross to visit the affected school and give details of their findings. We are planning to relocate the pupils to neighbouring schools,” Mr Cherutich said adding that the water levels were contributed by the ongoing construction of Masara-Sori road which had diverted the course of the waters.
“We have contacted the contractor doing the road who plans to raise the road to provide a temporary dyke that will prevent further backflow. We have sent out an appeal for food and non-food items from the national government which we expect to arrive in due course,” he said.
Dhogoye bridge, which connects Bondo Usenge and Osieko, has been washed away by floodwaters following weeklong torrential rains.
The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has warned motorists using the route that acts as a link between Bondo in Siaya County and Budalangi in Busia County against using the route which is vital for trade.
KeNHA issued the advisory following increased rainfall witnessed in several sections of the Lake Victoria basin causing flooding.
“Since there is no alternative access to Osieko, we wish to advise motorists along that section not to attempt crossing the overtopped section and to only cross when the water levels are low,” said KeNHA.
Out of desperation, motorists have been risking to cross the flooded causeway by speeding across it.
“The water has already covered the road, we fear that if the rains continue the Lake Victoria water will spread backward to River Yala and the road will be no more which may lead to deaths should people use it,” said George Omondi, a resident of Nyangera in Usenge.
This situation has been perennial when there are heavy rains in Nyanza and its environs.
KeNHA warned heavy trucks to avoid using the crossing as they evaluate mechanisms of undertaking works on the structure.
“A permanent bridge is planned and procurement process is underway to solve the rising Lake Victoria water levels at this crossing,” read the statement.
Goye crossing was built in 1975 to last 20 years before a new one could be built.
It is at the Goye bridge that River Yala drains into Lake Victoria.
However, locals have been complaining about the road which has been wasting away over the years and the delay to construct a new bridge which affects transportation whenever it rains.
The motorists plying that route also decried thousands of shillings they use to repair their cycles and vehicles.
In Migori, the West Kanyuor chief Philip Opolo at the weekend said over 600 families were displaced in Kakelo-Kakoth sub-location and another 200 from Karapolo and West Kanyuor sub-locations.
Besides displacing families, Mr Opolo said the floods have destroyed farms and road networks exposing residents to more challenges.
The county department for environment and disaster management said it set aside Sh10 million to mitigate floods associated with the long rains but residents said they have received no support so far.
Reporting by Ian Byron, George Odiwour, Rushdie Oudia