WEST Pokot, Kenya Nov 25 – Deputy President William Ruto on Monday toured West Pokot, the site of the landslide tragedy that claimed 52 lives, on the day military pilots flying other senior government officials aborted their trip due to ‘bad weather’.
The trip by Ruto to West Pokot was made hours after a military chopper carrying Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi, his Devolution counterpart Eugene Wamalwa and Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai landed in Eldoret more than 200 kilometers away and declared the journey to the tragedy-hit region could not proceed.
Matiangi later addressed a press conference at the Wilson Airport and assured that relief food and other items had been sent to the area to assist victims.
And when Ruto toured the region, he assured the residents that the “The Government was working closely with various agencies to ensure that we do not lose more lives.”
He spoke in Kapenguria County Teaching and Referral Hospital where he visited patients and victims of the Saturday night tragedy that hit Tapach, Weiwei and Batei Wards where landslides and floods destroyed or swept away several houses burying people and animals alive. At least 52 had been confirmed dead by Monday afternoon, based on the body count by area Governor John Lonyangapuo.
Ruto was accompanied by Lonyangapuo, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, MPs Samuel Moroto (Kapenguria), Peter Lochakapong (Sigor), Mark Lomunokol (Kacheliba), David Pkosing (Pokot South) and Woman Representative Lilian Cheptoo.
“The Government would support all the affected families,” said the Deputy President, adding that an extra helicopter would be put on the ground to help in terms of logistics.
While lauding the medical staff of the Kapenguria County Teaching and Referral Hospital for rising up to the occasion to save lives, Dr Ruto revealed that at least 40 doctors from the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital had also been mobilised to attend to the survivors of the tragedy.
Governor Lonyangapuo noted that the situation was dire, and called on the well-wishers to offer their help, noting that at least 20,000 people had been displaced.
“There is an urgent need for an upscale of humanitarian assistance,” explained the Governor. “We have never experienced a disaster of such a massive magnitude.”
Currently, a multi-agency team comprising the Kenya Defence Forces, the Kenya Police, Kenya Red Cross and Disaster Management Units from different counties are helping save the situation.
Mr Pkosing thanked the Deputy President for standing with the residents of West Pokot during “these low moments”.
In a meeting with the County Government of West Pokot and the multi-agency team, Ruto disclosed that food supplies would be increased to meet the needs of the affected.
He asked the County and National Governments to work together in moving the people from vulnerable areas to safer grounds.
The US Government said it was assisting the victims directly through financial support to the Kenya Red Cross society.
The Chinese Embassy in Nairobi also announced it was ready to offer support in the search and recovery efforts that was underway since Saturday, largely hampered by rains and poor terrain.
Additional reporting by Capital Reporter