Torrential rains cause havoc in parts of East Africa


Following the devastating rainstorms which lashed Mauritius last Friday are now also reports coming in from across East Africa of loss of property and lives caused by torrential rains.

Last week road links to and from Ngorongoro and the Serengeti were cut near Karatu when a river burst its banks and flooded the main road, leaving tourists and local travelers stranded, while a week earlier the central railway line got once again disrupted when sections of the track were under water, making rail traffic unsafe. The country’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam too was pounded by rains which caused flooding and displaced people from their homes in low lying areas of the city.

It was learned overnight that in Kenya too has disaster now struck and lives were lost when raging floods swept vehicles off the roads, drowning occupants. Local media report at least 4 deaths though it is expected that more such tragedies will come to light after the long Easter weekend.

Safari operators voiced their concern about the state of the roads into parts of the Masai Mara, expressing fears that like in past years road traffic may be disrupted, compelling them to fly tourists in and out of the reserve to avoid disruptions to the safari itineraries. ‘Climate change is real for us now. The icecaps of our mountains are melting away and the weather is becoming erratic by the day’ wrote one regular source from Nairobi by email before continuing ‘Rains hit us out of season and then we have droughts again. Flash floods make way to crop failures for lack of rain and this cycle is now upon us. There is a price to pay for cutting all the forests down and destroying water towers. We are a bit worried about getting tourists in and out of some parks where the roads are not the best but we will have to just hope for the best’.

Even parts of Uganda were hit by heavy rains over the Easter weekend, as Kisoro, a popular tourist centre with access to the two gorilla national parks of Mgahinga and Bwindi, located in the border triangle with Rwanda and Congo DR, reported hundreds of people fleeing from rising waters which submerged homesteads, schools and washed crops away. Safari lodges and camps as well as upcountry hotels in the main urban centres like Mbarara, Kabale, Fort Portal or Mbale reported brisk business as locals and expatriates alike descended on the national parks or used the 4 day Easter weekend to explore the country side.

Meanwhile have officials of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers painted a dark picture when they claimed, as reported in local media, that some 6.000 casual staff will have to be laid off as a result of the low occupancies in particular at coastal resorts, which have taken a beating vis a vis occupancies, compared to last year and two years ago, as a result of uncertainties over the election process and hostile anti travel advisories just ahead of the Easter weekend by supposedly friendly nations, which prevented their citizens living in Kenya from undertaking trips to the parks or the beaches.

Our Easter season was not good at all. First the issues about the elections, which as everyone now knows was just a big hype for nothing. Then the US mission’s statement to their citizens not to travel because they feared riots or whatever they imagined, that also lost us a lot of business. True, some hotels will close for their annual major maintenance and reopen in time for the European summer season but others just do not have enough business to stay open. On top of it a place like Malindi had these issues with attacks against Italians and the casino last week which has had an impact on them. The cultural festival brought them business over Easter but that is gone and so are the visitors. I hope that the new government which comes into place on the 09th of April will introduce a strong personality for the tourism and wildlife ministry, because that will shape our future for the next years. For now we tell our clients in Europe that all went well with the elections and that Kenya is open for business 24 / 7 for all days of the year. Come one come all’ added a Mombasa based source.

Mixed fortunes and a mixed bag of weather as the second quarter of 2013 starts. Watch this space.

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