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6 tourists and a guide dead in Hell’s Gate National Park tragedy

Gorges at Hell’s Gate National Park. Photo/CFM-FILE.

NAIVASHA, Kenya Sep 1 – Six tourists and their tour guide were swept away Sunday at the Hell’s Gate National Park, in yet another tragedy at a deadly gorge in the park.

Police and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officials said two bodies had been found, while the five others were still missing by Sunday night.

Six of those dead are Kenyans, including their tour guide while the nationality of the seventh had not been established, authorities said.

“Seven tourists were swept away by flash floods. six bodies have been recovered while one is missing,” said Paul Udoto of KWS Communications department.

The tourists were washed away alongside their tour guide as they explored the gorge in Hell’s Gate, where 2003 film “Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” was shot on location.

An earlier statement from the Kenya Wildlife Service said, “It is with deep sorrow that we announce a tragedy this (Sunday) evening in Hell’s Gate National Park in Naivasha in which an unknown number of tourists are feared to have drowned in flash floods while others survived.”

Udoto said a search and rescue would continue Sunday night, with an helicopter expected to be dispatched from Nairobi Monday.

“Our hearts and prayers are with the family and loved ones of those who died in the tragedy,” he said, and announced the closure of the gorge in the park.

Seven years ago, seven members of a church group–the Pentecostal Church of East Africa (PCEA)–died when they were washed away by floods at Ol Jorwa, a dangerous area with gorges in the park, prone to flash floods during the rainy season.

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“It does not have to rain in Hell’s Gate, whenever it is raining in the surrounding areas of Longonot Mountain, flash floods will always occur and they are very dangerous,” another official who was involved in the search and rescue of the church members in 2012 said.

Hell’s Gate, which received its name from 19th century explorers, is around 100 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of the Kenyan capital Nairobi and just south of Lake Naivasha.

Its spectacular scenery inspired the Disney animation “The Lion King”.

The park, established in 1984, is also home to three geothermal stations.

[This story has been updated with details of bodies’ recovery]

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