Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Kijabe Mudslide

Part of the mountain above our home that gave way.
Prior to April 27th, 2013, if I heard the word mudslide I would have first thought of a hillside at a church camp covered with hoses and a bunch of young people sliding down and having a lot of fun.

Those images in my mind have been replaced with different images now.

During the early morning hours of April 27th, after 5.5 inches of rain in a two-hour span, part of the mountain above our home gave way and came crashing down.  It was just one of multiple mudslides that took place that night in our area, sweeping away trees, buildings, water lines, and even the lives of three young girls sleeping in their beds – a tragedy that is still felt deeply here in our area.

The son's room and the headboard of his bed.
The slide that started above our home threaded the needle between the two homes just above us.  One house was that of our RVA neighbors who had mud flow into their yard and the other house was that of our Kenyan neighbors who had mud flow through an outbuilding where their adult son was sleeping.  When the mud entered his room from the back it flowed against the door at the front so it could not be opened.  Trapped inside, he started yelling for help and his father came running from the main house to wrestle off the walls so his son could get out.  The mudslide then swept away the security fence on one side of campus and passed about 25 yards from our house and on down the road toward Kijabe.
Looking from the Kenyan home across the mudslide to the RVA home.

The mudslide between the two homes.
The one lane road, cliff, and tunnel.
There was plenty of other destruction in our area, like the earth giving away right up to the edge of the main road coming into Kijabe.  The edge of the pavement is now a cliff and rocks have been set there to keep cars from falling off, but they also make it a one-way road where people hug the mountain as they drive by – until they meet another car at which point someone has to carefully drive backwards to get out of the one-way section so the other car can pass.  I should point out that when you back up you either have to back up going uphill through a one lane tunnel or downhill along the cliff.  Extreme care is needed in both cases.  No work has been done on the road since it happened and we don’t have any idea when it will be fixed.

Busted hospital water pipes.
The mudslides took out water to our area, but fortunately RVA has its own bore hole.  We immediately went on severe water restrictions so we would have enough water to share with the hospital and the surrounding community.  RVA opened up a water tap just outside our gate for the community and there was a line of people at it for days as they came to fill jugs of water to carry back to their homes.

People have been predicting mudslides in our area for a while now due to the pressure on the forests from people cutting down trees to make charcoal for cooking.  This event will hopefully help to bring resolve in the community to do all that it can to protect the remaining forests.

As some time has passed since the slide, the word mudslide conjures up more than just images of destruction in my head.  It also causes me to think of the resiliency of people living in community that band together to help each other in a time of need.  May God bless the people of Kijabe and strengthen their hands as we all continue to heal from this event.