Tuesday 20 January 1998
"The road from hell" was how one Somali lorry driver described the highway from Mombasa to Nairobi as he prepared to spend a third night in the cab of his truck. A combination of bad roads, worse driving and torrential rain has left more than 300 vehicles stranded on what has become a major mudway.
Three people, including one woman who gave birth in the chaos, have died in the traffic jam, said to be East Africa's worst ever. This brings the number of deaths in Kenya linked to the recent rains to 86. Health workers say that more than 400 have died from epidemics linked to the unseasonal weather.
According to a Reuter's report, the jam was worst on a 12-mile stretch of the road through Kenya's world-famous Tsavo national park. Drivers were reluctant to leave the road even to relieve themselves for fear of lions, which could be heard roaring as the sun set.
Tourism, which is so important to the Kenyan economy, has collapsed as the country's transport system has been drowned by the rains. "How can I in good faith tell visitors to drive for two days just to make 125 miles?" asked a safari lodge manager. "We can't fly because the airstrips are wet ... we can't drive because the roads have collapsed."
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