Christmas night downpour claims 12 lives

Christmas night's heavy rain at Sonatubes, Kigali /Emmanuel Kwizera

Heavy rains that ravaged mainly the City of Kigali on Christmas night claimed at least 12 lives across the country with four deaths recorded just in the capital, officials have said.

Unforeseen by the weathermen, the downpour in Kigali started around 7pm, and lasted nearly five hours. It was almost the same in different other parts of the country.

 

Other damages include 113 houses that were destroyed, of which 68 are in Kigali, and 49 hectares of farmland.

 

Kangondo village that is commonly known as Bannyahe, a high-risk slum in Nyarutarama saw 12 houses completely razed.

 

Traffic was trapped by running floods and falling trees along many highways across the city, and power went off for hours in the major part of the city, according to Claver Gatete, the Minister of Infrastructure.

Turbidity also hit a record 54,000 units from the normal 14,000 for water to be treated. Thus, since the flooding, Kimisagara water plant that usually treats 24,000 cubic meters daily has temporarily suspended operations, causing water shortages in different zones of the city. 

In a day's time, the ministry of infrastructure assured, that water issues will have been addressed.

During a news conference held on Thursday to discuss the aftermath of the heavy rain, officials agree that the history of Kigali has never recorded such amount of rainfall.

"I don't think there was such rain ever in Kigali," said Anastase Shyaka, the Minister of Local Government.

The highest measurement was 140 millimeters in a range between four and five hours. In layman's words, the figure means that one square meter received 140 litres of rain.

Sources from flood-prone zones of Kigali confirm destruction of houses, roads,  and other properties.

Officials say the value of the damage from the rains could not be immediately ascertained.

At Murindi along the Kigali-Rwamagana highway, a body was found in the swamp carried by waters, said Sylvie Musabyeyezu who was at the spot on Thursday morning.

"The body was of a young lady who on Christmas evening went missing after falling into a drainage in Kanombe area," she testified when contacted by phone.

Some people from disaster-prone areas have been forced to evacuate their homes to seek refuge from neighbours and schools, according to the city authorities.

Arrangements to provide safety and basic needs to the evacuees are being made.

Meteo Rwanda in the aftermath announced a three-day weather forecast of December 26 to 28 which will see average rains, but might increase in the southwestern part of the country.

The agency warns that more destruction may occur as the predicted rains will occur in the same areas which were already ravaged by the Christmas downpour.

"We were expecting average rain by winds from the Indian Ocean. But in the evening, we saw clouds coming from the western region which resulted in the heavy rainfall," says Amiable Gahigi, Director General of Rwanda Meteorology Agency.

Last week, over 6,000 people were evacuated from wetlands and high-risk zones of which half was in Kigali. The sudden move ignited controversial observations from the public and some politicians that President Paul Kagame personally took over half an hour addressing it during his State of the Nation Address at the beginning of Umushyikirano meeting last week.

“We are glad for the recent relocation of dwellers from high-risk areas and wetlands. The level of damage we saw last night is far less than what would have happened if those people were still in those danger zones,” said Shyaka and especially thanked the national police for rescuing lives endangered by the floods.

The government says that it is now bracing up to quickly evacuate the few activities and houses remaining in wetlands before more lives are lost.

 

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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