Tuesday 19 December 2017

Landslide kills three illegal sandminers in Makueni County, Kenya.

Three people have died and two more were seriously injured following a landslide at Kiongwani in Makueni County, in the Eastern Region of Kenya, at about 5.30 am local time on Tuesday 19 December 2017. The men were excavating sand from a bank of the River Kwa Muvai onto the back of a truck, when part of the sandface, which had been weakened by heavy rain, collapsed onto them. Landslides are are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall. Two of the men were dug out alive and taken to a local hospital, but the others could not be saved. A sixth man, thought to have been the driver of the truck, fled the scene on foot.

Rescue workers at the scene of the 19 December 2017 Kiongwani landslide. NTV.

The men had reportedly arrived at the site of the accident at about midnight, in order to extract sand from the riverbank under cover of darkness. Extracting sand from river banks or beds is illegal in Kenya, as it can lead to problems with flooding and erosion, and potentially even alter the courses of rivers. However the industry is also extremely profitable, leading to surreptitious extraction and occasional confrontations with authorities; one such incident resulted in the death of a police officer in February this year.

The approximate location of the 19 December 2017 Kiongwani landslide. Google Maps.

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