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Thursday, May 10th, 2018

 

Nigeria's Lassa fever outbreak contained, but continued vigilance needed

Abuja, 10 May 2018 – With six weeks of declining numbers and only a handful of confirmed cases reported in recent weeks, the critical phase of Nigeria’s largest-ever Lassa fever outbreak is under control, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, Nigeria is endemic for Lassa fever and people could be infected throughout the year, making continued efforts to control any new flare ups crucial.

In the last reporting week, ending on 6 May 2018, three new confirmed cases of Lassa fever were reported. This year a total of 423 confirmed cases including 106 deaths have been recorded. The national case numbers have consistently declined in the past six weeks, and have dropped below levels considered to be a national emergency when compared with data from previous outbreaks.

“Nigeria is to be congratulated for reaching this important milestone in the fight against Lassa fever,” says Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, Regional Emergencies Director for Africa. “But we cannot let our foot off the pedal. We must use the lessons learnt to better prepare at risk countries in our region to conduct rapid detection and response.”

WHO will continue to support the Nigerian government to maintain an intensified response to the current Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria. Thirty-seven health workers have been infected with Lassa fever, eight have died. This highlights the need for implementing standard infection prevention and control precautions with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices at all times. WHO continues to help states which have reported new cases by strengthening their capacity to conduct disease surveillance, treat patients, as well as implement infection prevention and control measures, laboratory diagnostics, and engage with communities.

WHO Country Representative Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu said, “Communities are encouraged to remain vigilant and report any rumors to the nearest health facilities because early diagnosis and treatment can save lives.”

Health care workers are urged to maintain a high index of suspicion for Lassa fever when handling patients, irrespective of their health status. Lassa fever should always be considered in patients with fever, headache, sore throat and general body weakness, especially when malaria has been ruled out with a rapid diagnostic test (RDT), and when patients are not improving. Health workers should adhere to standard precautions, and wear protective equipment like gloves, face masks, face shields and aprons when handling suspected Lassa fever patients.

WHO is monitoring and supporting Nigeria’s neighbouring countries to help improve their level of preparedness to readily respond to any potential outbreaks.

Note to the editors:

Lassa fever is a viral infection, primarily transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine, faeces, or blood. Person-to-person transmission is through direct or indirect contact with body fluids of an infected person. Prevention of Lassa fever relies on promoting good community hygiene to keep rats out of the house and prevent contamination of food supplies. Effective measures include storing grains and other foodstuff in rodent-proof containers, proper disposal of garbage far from the home, and maintaining clean households.

For Additional Information or to Request Interviews, Please contact:
Ms Charity Warigon
Tel: +234 810 221 0093
Email: warigonc@who.int


Ghana sells $2 bln Eurobonds at issuer-favoured yield -sources

ACCRA, May 10 (Reuters) – Ghana sold $2 billion worth of dual-tranche Eurobonds with 10- and 30-year maturities on Thursday and it will pay issuer-desired yields, government and transaction sources said.

The West African sovereign sold $1 billion each of the 10-year notes maturing in 2029 and a 30-year with 2049 maturity at 7.625 percent and 8.625 percent, respectively.

It set guidance for the May 2029 bond at 7.75 percent to 7.875 percent while the May 2049 was in the 8.75 percent to 8.875 percent range. The notes were first marketed in the low 8 percent area yield and low 9 percent mark.

Total books passed $5.5 billion, evenly split between the two tranches, lead advisers said.

“It’s a marked success for Accra because they got a low yield and a bigger size,” a sovereign debt market watcher told Reuters. “The pricing revision may have aided the deal and left investors unhappy.”

It was Ghana’s sixth sale since a 2007 debut.

Lead advisers for the sale were Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, JP Morgan and Standard Chartered. Ghana is rated B3/B-/B

The government plans to use some of the proceeds to refinance debt and up to $750 million as revenue for its 2018 budget.

Ghana, which exports cocoa, gold and oil, is in its final year of a $918 million IMF credit deal to narrow fiscal deficit, inflation and public debt which hit 69 percent of gross domestic product in December.

The Thursday sale by Ghana followed similar big transactions by continental peers Angola, Kenya and Nigeria. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


Patel Dam tragedy: 44 dead, 41 in hospital and 40 missing

By NATION TEAM
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The rumble at about 8pm on Wednesday sounded like a faint clap of thunder.

Elija Chege stepped out of his single-room house at Energy Village in Solai, Nakuru, to check what was happening as the sky had been clear just a few minutes earlier.

Then he heard the rumble; loud, louder, and ominous. It did not sound like the usual cacophony of rain drops on the greenhouses of Patel Coffee Estates behind the hills.

This was a strange rumble, and it was shaking the soft earth under his feet.

DAM BURSTS

The village erupted in chaos as the 41-year-old mason and his neighbours ran for their lives, some towards Solai Shopping Centre, others in the opposite direction.

“We didn’t know what to do, or what we were running away from,” Chege told the Nation in the village on Thursday as the gravity of what he had escaped from started sinking in.

Energy Village, the small farming village he has called home for years, is no more.

Where houses stood, mud rests calmly, burying in its muted horror tens of men, women and children.

The rumble Chege had run away from was 70 million litres of water cascading towards him and his neighbours after a private dam used by Patel Coffee Estates burst its retaining walls.

Some managed to escape, many others didn’t.

CASUALTIES

Officials from the Water Resources Management Authority told the Nation only about 10 million litres of water was retained as 90 per cent of the dam’s volume poured downstream towards Energy and Marigu settlements.

A statement by the National Disaster Management Unit Deputy Director Pius Masai puts the number of dead locals at 44, 41 are admitted in hospital and 40 are missing.

The village hosted about 60 homesteads on plots measuring an eighth of an acre each, and was home to hundreds of casual labourers who earn a living from the coffee estate irrigated by the dam, the flower farms that dot Solai, and other plantations.

As the 70 million litres of water hurtled towards the residents, it formed a powerful wave about a metre-and-a-half high which swept away everything in its 500-metre-wide path.

TRAUMA
The destruction was buried by the eerie dark of the Wednesday night, but became evident when the sun shone its light on Solai Thursday morning.

Cars had been swept away and slammed into buildings which were, in turn, washed away to their foundations.

“This will haunt me for a long time,” John Mbuthia, who ran a shop at Solai trading centre, said.

“I saw it happen because I had just closed my shop and was heading home when the dam burst its walls. I took off and watched from a distance as the water swallowed my premises.”

Rongai police boss Japhet Kioko said emergency workers had spent the night combing through engulfed houses to rescue those trapped and retrieve the bodies of the victims.

“We found 11 bodies buried in mud at a coffee plantation,” he said.

“We suspect they were trying to escape from the deluge when they were swept away. Most of them were women and children who probably could not run fast enough, and the elderly.”

At least 200 Kenya Defence Forces soldiers also took part in the rescue mission.

About 47 people were rescued from the mud and taken to local health facilities, including Bahati Sub-County and Nakuru Level Five hospitals, where they are recuperating.

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, who camped at the scene since Wednesday night, condoled with the victims’ families, saying the county government will do its best to evacuate affected families and assist victims get medical attention.

MAJOR DAM DISASTERS

1. The Banqiao hydroelectric dam in China tragedy of August 8, 1975: The destruction, as a result of Typhoon Nina, killed 26,000 people, but the figure rose to between 171,000 and 230,000 following disease outbreaks and famine after the event.

More than 300,000 domestic animals and as many as 5.9 million buildings were destroyed.

2. St Francis dam disaster in USA of 1928 killed 600 people.

3. Malpasset dam disaster in 1959 in France killed 423 people, with the town of Frejus completely flooded and the damage estimated at Sh6.8 billion.

4. Vajont dam disaster, Italy, in 1961 killed over 2,000 people.

5. Flooding in Serov, Russia, on June 14, 1993 displaced 6,500 people, killed 15, and destroyed 1,772 houses, six bridges and hundreds of meters of railway tracks.

6. Sayano-Shushenskaya Hydropower Plant disaster in Russia on August 17, 2009 killed 75 people and seriously damaged the largest power plant in Russia and the world’s ninth-largest hydroelectric plant.

7. Fuhe River dam disaster in China in June 2010 affected 29 million people, killed 199 and 123 were reported missing. Its damage was valued at Sh622 billion.

8. A dam break on the Indus River in Pakistan on August 5, 2010 killed 1,700 people, destroyed 895,000 homes, and affected 20 million people.

Reporting by Magdalene Wanja, Eric Matara, Joseph Openda and John Ngirachu


Reprieve for Sossion as court rules he’s the Knut boss

By SAM KIPLAGAT
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Embattled Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion is still the boss.

Justice Maureen Onyango of the Employment and Labour Relations Court on Thursday said there was no evidence that the changes removing Mr Sossion from the helm of the union were effected before she made orders barring his removal.

Consequently, the judge extended the orders stopping the ejection of Mr Sossion from office.

Immediately after the ruling, Mr Sossion and his camp tried unsuccessfully to access the Knut headquarters on Mfang’ano Street in Nairobi.

HESBON OTIENO

Police had to lob tear-gas canisters as rival groups clashed.

Earlier, Mr Sossion, through lawyer Jackson Awele, told the court that those opposed to his leadership had disregarded the orders and purported to suspend him.

Mr Awele said that some officials had already removed Mr Sossion as a signatory to bank accounts and denied him access to his office at Knut House.

The Registrar of Trade Unions, Ms Elizabeth Gicheha, and acting Knut Secretary-General Hesbon Otieno, had told the court that Mr Sossion, who is also a Nominated MP, had already been de-registered when they were served with the order.

NEC MEETING

Ms Gicheha said the union, through acting chairman Wycliffe Omucheyi, applied for a notice of change of officers on May 2, after holding a special National Executive Council (NEC) meeting.

She said the NEC suspended Mr Sossion from office pending disciplinary action.

“The application for change of officials was accompanied by a duly filled and signed Form Q dated April 30, notice of special NEC meeting, the duly signed and confirmed minutes of the meeting and a list of attendance,” she said.

The order she received prohibited the suspension, but it did not stop what had already been done.

She also said that she was yet to receive any complaint from Mr Sossion.

Mr Otieno maintained that Mr Sossion was not authorised to speak on behalf of Knut, and could not purport to join the union in the case.

Justice Onyango directed the parties to appear before her on May 28.


DP Ruto urges contractors to build quality dams

By NATION TEAM
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Deputy President William Ruto has asked contractors to comply with the accepted engineering safety standards while building dams to avert calamities.

Mr Ruto said dams failed in some parts of the country resulting into deaths and other losses due to poor workmanship.

He was addressing senior officials from the ministries of Water and Agriculture at his Karen home in Nairobi on Thursday.

“Safety measures should be addressed during construction of dams,” Mr Ruto said.

WATER HARVESTING
The DP at the same time hailed efforts by concerned departments to improve rainwater harvesting across the country.

Mr Ruto said the country is keen to improve its water harvesting capabilities and curb wastage.

The DP said building of water dams across the country remains key to empowering farmers and turning their dreams into realities as far as food production was concerned.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui (Water and Sanitation), Principal Secretaries Joseph Irungu (Irrigation) and Fred Segor (Water) were present.

Mr Segor said 141 small dams have been built across the country, saying 90 per cent of the dams are already full.

“These dams are being targeted to provide water for drinking and agriculture through irrigation,” Mr Segor said.

FULL DAMS
According to Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority Managing Director Steven Ruimuku, dams are constructed to have structures to avoid bursting.

Speaking with Nation on phone, Mr Ruimuku said bursting can be avoided by monitoring settlement and any movement of water in the dam. 

“These are the measures put by in all conventional dams. We have them in Masinga, Kiambere, Kindaruma and Gitaru. They protect and prevent bursting,” he said. 

In the North Rift, dams which supply water to many towns in the region are full and neighbouring families have been urged to move to safer grounds to avert looming disaster.

In Elgeyo Marakwet County, controversy rages over the safety of Chebara Dam that has claimed over 10 lives and several animals in the past four years.

In Kisii, residents and the government are still haggling over compensation arrangements, to allow for the construction of Sh5 billion Bonynyu dam to go on.

Reported by Benson Amadala, Elizabeth Ojina, Ruth Mbula, Barack Oduor, Elisha Otieno, Winnie Atieno, Wycliff Kipsang, Barnabas Bii,Irene Mugo, Charles Wanyoro and Ndung’u Gachane


Nairobi halts scholarship fund over fraud cases

Emmaculate Mumbi dreamt of becoming a lawyer, but was afraid that her parents’ modest means might make it hard to achieve the dream.

But the dream was given impetus in 2016 when Nairobi County gave her a full secondary school scholarship.

Now hopes of the Form Three student at Brumvale Secondary School have turned to despair after the city administration suspended the Nairobi City County Scholarship Fund, pending the completion of an audit of the beneficiaries.

The County Executive Committee (CEC) member in charge of Education, Ms Muthoni Ouko, said the audit was prompted by rampant fraud.

“We have to make sure that the scholarships are going to the right children.

“We found that in some cases parents do not need help paying their children’s school fees. Even some county staff members have been benefitting from the scholarships,” Ms Ouko told the Nation.

SCHOOL FEES
She said no more funds will be disbursed until the audit is completed and the loopholes sealed, but gave no timelines.

Consequently, there is no money to pay school fees for students like Mumbi, forcing those who cannot make alternative arrangements or get transfers, out of school.

The fund, which was launched by former Governor Evans Kidero two years ago, aims at taking students from disadvantaged backgrounds through secondary school.

Emmaculate, who is among the fund’s 3,000 beneficiaries, was surprised that there are integrity questions surrounding the programme.

Securing the scholarship was rigorous.

First, her public primary school teachers, who had interacted with her for several years, had to identify her as a bright girl from a needy background.

Then forms were sent to her parents to fill in — including information on their marital status, profession and monthly income — after which the information was verified by the church, as well as their area chief. Only after this did she qualify.

The beneficiaries’ parents have complained that they were not told that their children’s school fees would not be paid.

“Why didn’t they tell us earlier? We can’t even transfer our children to more affordable schools because that is another huge expense. Which school would release them with such a big balance?” Mary Kagai, a parent, lamented.

“We have been to the county offices looking for answers. They tell us that the CEC is away or that she will talk to us later but that never happens.

“Today, they finally told us that they will not handle the cases of students from Form Two onwards. That the programme has been stopped and we shouldn’t bother them again,” Frederick Baraza said.

LEARNING
During a protest by the parents and their children at City Hall on Thursday, Ms Ouko told them that children from financially able families would not be admitted back to the programme.

“We are currently in talks with the schools, asking principals to let the children learn. The fees can be paid later for deserving cases,” Ms Ouko said.

The parents said that until the beginning of the year, the county has been giving them promissory notes to take to the schools to allow their children to continue learning, until the money was paid towards the end of the term.

However, after the new county government came to power, the schools stopped accepting the notes.


TSC releases fresh rules to guide teachers’ career progress

By OUMA WANZALA
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The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has released guidelines on how teachers will be promoted as it introduced a competitive recruitment process for administrative positions.

In the guidelines, promotion of teachers will be based on existence of funded vacancies in the approved establishment, minimum qualifications per grade and relevant Teacher Professional Development (TPD) modules.

Others will be relevant experience and satisfactory performance.

However, the policy does not talk about those who have attained higher academic qualifications, an issue that has been the source of conflict between the commission and teachers’ unions.

SCHEMES
In a circular to TSC county directors and other education officials, TSC chief executive officer Nancy Macharia said the guidelines are operational effective November 8, 2017.

“The guidelines effectively replace the following: scheme of service for non-graduate teachers, scheme of service for graduate teachers and scheme of service for technical teachers and lecturers,” Mrs Macharia said.

The guidelines provide for the policies and procedures that have standardised teachers’ professional development and grading structure, which has taken into account the job evaluation report.

“Teachers will be required to undertake prescribed professional development programmes to facilitate their career progression as per provisions of Regulation 48 of the Code of Regulations for Teachers,” the 142-page document dubbed Career progression guidelines for teachers service states.

PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS

The guidelines are applicable to teachers serving in the following public institutions: primary schools, secondary schools, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, Teacher Training Colleges (TTCs), Kenya Institute of Special Education, (KISE), Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA); and special needs institutions.

“Recognised qualifications will be those attained from accredited institutions or colleges and from government approved examination bodies.

“The commission expects the Commission for University Education or other relevant examining bodies to equate certificates from foreign universities and colleges in accordance with the law,” the guidelines say.

QUALIFICATIONS
A primary school teacher will be required to have C (plain) in KCSE exam and Primary Teacher Education (PTE) Certificate while the entry grades for the visually and hearing impaired for PTE will be a C- (minus).

Secondary school teachers will be required to have KCSE grade C+ (plus) and a Diploma in Education or KCSE C+ (plus) and a Bachelor’s degree in Education or a Postgraduate Diploma in Education.

For technical colleges, lecturers will be required to have KCSE C+ (plus) and a diploma in a relevant technical subject plus a Diploma in Technical Education, KCSE C- (minus), certificate, diploma and Bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject area plus a Diploma in Technical Education.

For special needs education, the teacher will be required to have KCSE C+ (plus) and Diploma in Special Needs Education or KCSE C+ (plus) and a Bachelor’s degree in Special Needs Education.

“Direct appointment to any level will be determined by the entry qualifications and competencies prescribed for each level. Direct appointment is provided for at various levels within the respective progression guidelines,” the guidelines say.

COMPETENCE
The guidelines further state that teachers serving as at November 8, 2017 will adopt and convert as appropriate to the new designations and grading structure provided.

However, to advance to higher posts, the teachers or lecturers must possess the minimum prescribed qualifications and or experience required in each grade.

The guidelines will be linked to the remuneration framework that will be determined by the commission in accordance with the law.

The commission has also established a new grading structure for the teaching service, which has elongated the job scales from 10 to 11 grades based on the relative worth of each job.

The grades established for each category of institutions are: eight grades for primary school teachers, 10 grades for secondary school teachers, six grades for teachers at Centre for Mathematics, Science Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA), eight grades for teachers in TVET institutions, seven grades for teachers in TTCs and eight grades for teachers in KISE.

GRADES
Under special needs education institutions, in primary schools, there will be five grades, eight grades in secondary and eight grades in TVET.

The following grades will form the common establishment in the teaching service: Primary Teacher II, T-Scale 5 and Primary Teacher I, T-Scale 6.

Secondary Teacher III/Lecturer III T-Scale 6 and Secondary Teacher II/Lecturer II-T Scale 7 for Diploma holders and Secondary Teacher II/Lecturer II-T Scale 7 and Secondary Teacher I/Lecturer I T scale 8 for holders of Bachelor of Education or its equivalent.

All teachers will be required to meet the requirements of Chapter Six of the constitution and the commission’s requirements.

Primary Teacher I-T Scale 6 will be a promotion grade for primary school teachers.

To qualify for promotion to the grade of Primary Teacher I, a teacher will be required to have served as Primary Teacher II-T Scale 5 for a minimum period of three years and must have satisfactory rating in the performance appraisal process.


Kenya readies to send nano satellite precursor to space

By OUMA WANZALA
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Kenya will today launch its first satellite made by University of Nairobi scientists.

Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed described the launch as one of the “most notable scientific development of our time”.

“The first Kenyan university nano satellite precursor flight will be launched. This will be the first outer space object to be operated by a Kenyan university, the University of Nairobi,” Ms Mohamed said.

“Satellites are the future low budget resources and hardware for space communications and satellite-based mapping of the earth and earth observations. Please join me, in advance, to congratulate the university for this most wonderful and prestigious achievement.”

USES
The Sh100 million satellite was developed with the support of Sapienza University (Italy) and experts from Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Ms Mohamed will lead a delegation to witness its deployment.

Vice Chancellor Peter Mbithi said the satellite will be used in collecting data on climate change, wildlife mapping, earth mapping, weather forecast, coastline monitoring, transport and logistics.

In 2016, UoN became the first institution to benefit from a joint project between the United Nations and JAXA, which seeks to support educational institutions from developing countries to manufacture their own satellites.

RESEARCH
The project dubbed KiboCUBE was started in September 2015.

Japan provided the funding and a platform for construction of the satellite.

Prof Mbithi said successful deployment of the satellite will herald the next phase for institutions and Kenyan scientists and engineers to develop bigger higher resolution satellites with serious scientific and technological value for the country.

Meanwhile, the Education ministry will in the next financial year spend Sh3 billion on research and development activities.

Ms Mohamed said this is six times more than the Sh500 million that the ministry used to spend.

“I wish to announce that the general aim of the government is to reach a level where we spend two per cent of gross domestic product on research and development, up from the current 0.89 per cent. Even then, this is a massive improvement from the 0.48 levels.”


Guards to own guns in new security plan

By STELLA CHERONO
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Private security guards will soon be issued with guns as part of a new strategy to fight crime and complement police officers.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i announced the plan on Thursday, a month after the National Security Advisory Committee approved the proposal to arm guards.

The plan will, however, only take effect when the formulation of regulations that would guide the process is completed by the Private Security Regulatory Authority.

CASH TRANSPORTATION
Already, Dr Matiang’i has proposed that private security firms take up the job of securing Cash In Transit in three months’ time.

This means that private security firms will have to take their staff through rigorous training on the use of guns, which will be a new requirement for them as they will be tasked with the responsibility of escorting cash and other valuables for various institutions and individuals.

Currently, the Administration Police Service is tasked with this responsibility.

Dr Matiang’i – in a session with private security firms’ managers – said the issuance of guns will be a strict process that will be coordinated by the authorities.

Currently, the Firearms Licensing Board is charged with this task.

“The government will issue gun licences to vetted companies, who will in turn arm their personnel to conduct their businesses,” he said.

LICENCES
He asked them to prepare for additional responsibilities and ensure they are equipped with the laws that pertain to ownership and use of firearms.

He warned that firms which will go against the rules and regulations will have their licences revoked.

Dr Matiang’i directed the Private Security Regulatory Authority to start work immediately and also ensure the welfare of the guards is looked into.

“We are in the process of creating a centralised data of all guards in the country so that their activities and tasks are well coordinated. We also want them to have similar uniform and a specified identification document,” he said.

The Interior ministry announced after the approval of the proposal that it is developing a training manual for the security firms to equip them with the basics of gun handling, maintenance and use.


Patel Dam disaster exposes lacuna in the law

By BERNADINE MUTANU
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By PATRICK LANG’AT
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The Patel Dam tragedy in Solai, Nakuru County, has exposed a gap in the law, which stipulates that the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) inspect dams only after those building them have applied for a licence.

This brings to the fore the difficulty in monitoring and regulating dam projects.

On Thursday, the Water Resources Management Authority, another government body, said the ill-fated dam was one of seven on the Patel farms that they have not legalised despite several visits by the agency’s officials.

SOLAI TRAGEDY

Worse still, Nema started issuing environmental impact assessment certificates only after June 2003, when the parent law came into force, raising questions about the standards of dams built before then.

“Nema does inspection only by invitation,” the authority’s communications officer, Mr Evans Nyabuto, said.

“That is why, as an agency, we are now asking ourselves: How do we come to you and ensure that you are complying even when you have not applied for a licence, or after it has been approved?”

LITRES OF WATER

As Kenyans came to terms with the tragedy that has claimed at least 44 lives and displaced 2,500 people — with the number feared to increase — experts say many related factors could have contributed to the incident, especially the weakening of the dam’s walls, reducing their capacity to hold the additional water that came with the heavy rains.

During its construction in 1980, the dam was allowed “2,500 gallons (9,465lt) of water per day for domestic use and 40,000 gallons (151,416 lt) per day for irrigation, puffing and washing”, according to the Hansard.

But government officials said it had 80 million litres of water, 72 million of which poured out to the neighbouring villages, killing tens and destroying property.