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Upcountry Kenyans grapple with heavy rains after biting dry spell   

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- After enduring a dry spell that lasted months causing severe drought in several parts of the country, Kenyans are currently grappling with heavy rains that are pounding the East African nation.

The rains started barely a week ago signaling the end of dry spell and citizens welcomed them with joy, but thousands are already feeling the pain of the downpour.

Heavy traffic jams, blocked roads due to poor drainage, flooding of houses, displacement and high fares are among the consequences of the rains residents have to grapple with.

On Sunday, it rained continually in most parts of the country, with the rains that started on Saturday night lasting the entire day. They continued up to Monday morning in some regions, including Nairobi.

The change of the weather pattern, from a dry spell to heavy rains, has been drastic, pointing to the effects of climate change affecting the East African nation.

The Meteorological Department had predicted that the long rains season would start in March and end in May. The rains were expected to increase in intensity as time progresses, but all indications are clear that they have started on a high.

“Rains are a blessing and I was looking forward to their start because the dry spell had pushed us to the edge. But it is barely a week since they started and I am already feeling like it has been raining for the last one month,” Catherine Odengo, who works with a tour company in Nairobi, said on Monday.

Her works involves a lot of travelling to different parts of the country with both local and foreign tourists to game reserves and lodges.

On Feb. 28, with a group of tourists, she left the capital Nairobi for the Tsavo National Park at the coast.

“Our four-day tour was good thanks to the dry weather that made it easy for us to crisscross the massive park seeing elephants and other wild animals. But on Friday, it started to rain and we had to cut short our tour and return to Nairobi because the roads in the park could not allow us,” she recounted.

The journey back to the capital on Saturday turned into a nightmare, as Odengo with the group of tourists found a massive traffic jam some 50km to Nairobi. They spent 10 hours in the jam, only managing to wriggle out on Sunday mid-day.

Police blamed the massive traffic that stretched for kilometres on heavy rains and ‘overlapping’, a bad habit by Kenyan motorists that involves driving on the wrong side. The rains exacerbated the situation.

In the capital Nairobi, the city’s poor drainage has once again been exposed by the heavy rains, with a good number of roads rendered impassable due to floods and a majority clogged by traffic.

Residents are spending plenty of time in traffic jams like never before and commuters have to contend with being charged double fare as public transport operators take advantage of the situation.

“I left home at about 6am for work and spend two-and-half hours in traffic instead of the usually one hour from Kahawa to the city centre. The last time I stayed in traffic that much was over a year ago,” said Moses Kimani, a banker in Nairobi.

One of the estates worst affected by the floods in Nairobi following the deluge is the middle-income South C.

Residents spend the better part of Friday night and Saturday morning removing water from their houses due to the floods.

“It was horrible. I arrived home late in the night due to a heavy traffic jam only to find my house flooded. I could not even get in and had to spend the night at a friend’s place and return the following morning to clear the mess,” said Harrison Musila, a project officer with a non-state organization, in Nairobi.

The rains have cut off several roads across the country, with among the worst hit being the Nairobi-Narok road which leads to the world-famed Masai Mara Game Reserve.

Several road accidents have also been reported in different parts of the country in the last two days due to slippery roads and poor visibility following the rains.

Road Safety Volunteers Association noted that at least five people were killed in different parts of the capital over the weekend following the heavy rains.

Kenya Meteorological Department in its latest update noted that Nairobi, western, Rift Valley and Nyanza regions would receive rainfall from March 1, which would continue for the better part of this month.

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