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Kenya’s chief prosecutor orders dam burst probe

Kenya’s chief prosecutor has ordered the investigation of the cause of the Patel Dam burst in Solai, Nakuru County in the Rift Valley.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji directed Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet on Friday “to carry out thorough investigations to establish cause and culpability if any” behind the tragedy that claimed 44 lives and left a trail of destruction in the area.

He asked the police chief to submit the report within two weeks.

This comes amid concerns that the dam and others on the 3,500-acre farm, some 190km northwest of Nairobi, and owned by large-scale farmer Patel Mansukul, had been built without the necessary licences.

On Thursday, the Water Resources Management Authority (Warma) said they have been engaging Patel Coffee Estates Limited to legalise the dams without success.

Simon Wang’ombe, the regional manager for the Rift Valley, said officials from Warma had been visiting the farms occasionally.

Their main cause of concern was a dam near Solai shopping centre, he said, that appeared weak and water has been seeping onto the road.

“We had been pushing him to repair that one but this other one we didn’t anticipate,” said Mr Wang’ombe.

As Kenyans came to terms with the Wednesday night 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.

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