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Solai residents bid kin farewell as pain festers

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Mr Mbugua Kariuki sat pensively in the midst of hundreds of mourners, staring blankly at the rows of caskets bearing remains of some of the victims of the Patel Dam tragedy.

An interdenominational prayer service was underway, at the Solai AIC Church, and Mr Kariuki was struggling to follow the proceedings of the service just like many other mourners.

Dressed in a blue suit, he was visibly in deep thought and still traumatised. Mr Mbugua, who was a watchman at Solai Nyakinyua Primary School, managed to escape death by a whisker.

The dam owned by a farmer cum businessman Mr Patel Mansukul, broke its banks last Wednesday and flooded areas downstream killing 47 people.

The 36-year-old could be at his one-acre farm attending to his peas, worrying about how the rainy season is affecting his produce, how after the harvest his crops will transported to Nairobi and elsewhere, but today he was mourning tens of his villagemates, lying in coffins.

Nearly a week after the tragedy occurred, the ugly scenes of the tragedy are still fresh in his mind.

When he granted us an interview, he insisted he did not want to be photographed, condition we agreed to.

He said life has really changed for him and other villagers who were affected by the tragedy.

“Nyakinyua Primary School that would be a hive of activity as learners go through their second term lessons is now a pale shadow its former self. Mud and debris fill the classes that were not destroyed in the tragedy,” said Mr Kariuki as he goes for his handkerchief to wipe tears flowing freely down his cheeks.

The raging waters cut right in the middle of the compound of the school and brought with it bodies, a car, among other things.

At least five pupils who attended the school died in the tragedy.

Mr Samuel Ngugi declined to be interviewed and appeared overwhelmed.

“I have nothing to say, our lives will never be the same again,” he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, and Interior secretary Fred Matiang’I were among national leaders who attended the memorial service.

Others included Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui and Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika.

So far, 42 of those who died have been buried by buried after their families picked their bodies from the mortuary on Wednesday.

But five of the bodies are still at the Nakuru County Referral Mortuary as families prepare for their burial.

The bodies were at the Nakuru County Mortuary and the Nakuru Level Five Hospital Mortuary.

Thirty bodies were at the Nakuru County Mortuary, while 17 were at the Nakuru Level V Hospital Mortuary.

Eight National Youth Service lorries were used to ferry the caskets to the various destinations.

“We are here as church members so as to console the families as they take their loved ones to their final resting places. The bodies have already been removed from the mortuary,” said Alex Maina, a church leader.

Twelve of the victims were buried at the Solai Public Cemetery, since they did not have lands while others were taken to their farms in various regions.

While condoling the mourning families, President Kenyatta promised that the government will issue title deeds to Nyakinyua land occupants, most of whom were victims of the Patel Dam burst.