Tourism

Seven dead as flash flood washes away tour group exploring Kenya’s Hell’s Gate

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Seven tourists have been confirmed dead after a flash flood in Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya.

The search and rescue operations to find a group of tourists has been called off, after the bodies of all seven victims – five Kenyans, an Indian and their guide – caught in a flash flood in Hell’s Gate National Park on Sunday were recovered.

“We are holding counselling sessions with the bereaved families to help them cope with the untimely deaths of their loved ones. The search and rescue operation has been called off this afternoon after bodies of all the missing tourists and their guide were accounted for,” the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said on its official Twitter page.

Search and rescue teams had initially recovered two bodies on Sunday but four more were found as efforts continued throughout the night, KWS said. A helicopter was later released from Nairobi, more than 100 kilometres from the park, to help with the search and rescue operation.

The gorge in Hell’s Gate National Park has been closed indefinitely due to ongoing rains in the region, the agency said, which came after its closure on Sunday following the incident.

Tour groups visiting Hell’s Gate are usually accompanied by experienced guides, who are trained to to detect storm water flowing downstream towards the gorge and alert tourists of impending emergencies and direct them to exit points.

“Since a similar tragedy in 2012, we have put in place stringent precautionary measures to prevent a recurrence & ensure the safety of our visitors. We have created clearly marked emergency exits along the whole gorge as escape routes in cases of danger like the flash floods,” KWS said.

CNN reported that at least seven members of a church group were killed in a flash flooding while walking on a gorge in Hell’s Gate in 2012.

KWS said it will be engaging KenGen and other stakeholders in the area to enhance early warning systems to detect heavy rains at their onset.

“This will facilitate the evacuation of the gorge early enough to prevent such occurrences in the future,” the agency said.

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