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Dozens of tourists evacuated amid flooding in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve

Americans were among those who were saved, authorities said.

Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve — one of Africa’s greatest wildlife reserves — has been left flooded in water, several luxury safari hotels left submerged following devastating floods.

Kenya’s Red Cross said over 90 people have been evacuated to safety thus far following search and rescue operations in over 14 tourist camps in the reserve, most affected camps now closed.

Through collaborations with Narok’s County and National Government, Mara Elephant Project, and community members, 36 people have been rescued by air and 25 through an aqua rescue team, Kenya Red Cross said. Americans were among those rescued, officials said.

“In some camps, tents have been swept away, and the Mara Bridge, linking the Mara triangle and the Greater Mara, has been washed away,” said the Kenya Red Cross.

The Telek River lies across the famous “Great Migration Route” — the annual circuit seeing wildebeest and other animals such as Zebras and Gazelle migrate from Tanzania’s Serengeti into Kenya’s Maasai Mara reserve.

“Many of the visitors and workers were forced to climb trees on Tuesday evening after the camp was marooned by the water after the river burst its banks,” Tobias Korir, a local journalist, told ABC. “Hoteliers say the damage was estimated to be in millions of shillings; many tents, rooms swept away.”

“There is also fear that many wild animals might have been swept away by the flooding,” Korir said. “Visitors could not go for game drives as heavy rains in the reserve rendered roads impassable.”

The famed park — home to each of Africa’s “Big 5” animals — draws an estimated 300,000 tourists every year, the annual “Great Migration” ranked one of the “Seven wonders of the world.”

In a statement Wednesday, Kenya’s Tourism minister Alfred Mutua said “several camps” have been impacted by flooding, coordinated rescue efforts deemed as effective thus far. Mutua warned all camps and hotels in the reserve that are located near rivers to prepare for evacuations should rivers overflow.

“Mother Nature is not happy with us,” Narok County’s Senator Ledama Olekina said.

“Mara Bush camp, JW Marriot, Intrepid mara and many other camps built along the river have been submerged,” Olekina said about the current situation in the Mara.

The Narok County Government in a statement said it has been “briefed” on the heavy rains affecting the region, calling on residents to take all necessary precautions to safeguard lives and property.

Heavy rains in Kenya’s “long rains” season — which typically runs from March to May — have left at least 181 people dead and 125 injured in what is one of the East African nation’s worst flooding incidents in recent memory.

Weeks of heavy rains have affected almost 200,000 people, Kenya’s Great Rift Valley among the nation’s worst-hit areas, according to Kenya’s Government Spokesman Isaac Mwaura. Flooding has also impacted other countries in the East Africa region, impacting neighboring Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi leaving hundreds dead.

“We condole with the families that have lost their loved ones due to the floods in the country,” said Kenyan President William Ruto as he visited Mai Mahiu in Nakuru County on Tuesday. “A multi-agency rescue operation, including the military, is currently underway in all affected areas.”

Local residents are waiting for flood waters to recede, Kenya’s Meteorological Office forecasting more rainfall across multiple regions of the country from Thursday through the weekend.