NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Authorities called off search and rescue operations after seven bodies were recovered from a flash flood that killed at least six tourists and their driver visiting the gorges of the famous Hell’s Gate National park.
Five Kenyans of Indian descent, an Indian national and their Kenyan driver died in the Sunday evening tragedy, said Paul Udoto, spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service. The park was also closed, authorities said.
Ivraj Singh Haye survived the deluge, but his wife and five other relatives died. He spoke to the Nation Television News his family stopped at the gorge to “use the washroom,” before the flash flood.
A ranger asked if they would want to see the gorge and as they went down it started drizzling lightly, so they didn’t go into gorge, he said.
“At around 3 p.m. water came from nowhere and I had my phone and we were able to call the guy at the reception … the guide next to me shouted “tuna bebwa na maji(the water is carrying us away),”he said.
“We thought rescue will come but nothing, my relative started going one after the other,” he said .
His niece, a driver and a Kenyan couple were able to avoid being carried away for one and a half hours, he said. And when the water flow reduced, they then got stuck in quick sand or silt left from the deluge, he said.
“We thought we were gone but then we just had hope and we pulled ourselves out and we climbed a very steep hill upward,” he said. “We kept sliding down but we kept pushing each other ‘let’s go let’s go,’ he added.
Only six people from his group from Nairobi survived, he said.
John Waweru Director General of Kenya Wildlife Services said, “early warning is the only way we are going to be able to prevent such incidences happening again.”
Seven years ago, seven members of a church group died when they were washed away by floods in the same area, which is prone to flash floods during the rainy season.
Authorities say that while it may not be raining in the gorges, rainfall from surrounding areas builds up and can rush through the restricted space.
AP video reporter Khaled Kazziha contributed to this report.