Travellers tale of 19-hour agony in Mombasa-Nairobi highway traffic gridlock

By: DANIEL TSUMA NYASSY

Hundreds of travellers were left stranded in a 19-hour traffic jam that crippled transport on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway.

The gridlock, which lasted from Tuesday evening to Wednesday afternoon, was caused by unfinished work on a road diversion in Taru and a heavy downpour that rendered the muddy stretch impassable.

A large number of buses, trucks, tour vans and other private vehicles were trapped in the jam that stretched from Maji ya Chumvi in Kwale County to Maungu in Taita-Taveta County, as the travellers waited for any form of intervention to enable them to resume their journey.

Some of the motorists opted to use alternative routes, including passages cleared for use by contractors building the standard gauge railway.

The motorists and travellers accused the road contractor of taking too long to complete the stretch.

HUNGER AND THIRST

Parents, accompanied by their children, agonised the most as they sought to make the young ones comfortable in the face of biting hunger and thirst.

Shops located between Mariakani and Maungu towns on the busy highway ran out of food after the stranded travellers bought all the stock.

“We have sold out all foodstuffs and soft drinks. All loaves of bread, biscuits, water, soda and anything edible is finished.

“The sad part is that we cannot get (more supplies) as the road is totally clogged up for the last 19 hours,” said Mr Michael Mwangadu, a shopkeeper at the Msufi trading centre, near Taru.

Vegetable transporters were forced to cook and feed on part of their merchandise after hunger pangs became unbearable.

A truck driver, Mr Jackson Mbalu, who was transporting vegetables from Taveta to Kongowea Market in Mombasa, said he had to offload some of the vegetables and cook at the Mailikubwa trading centre.

He shared it with the other hungry travellers.

BUSES STUCK

Buses from Kampala, Busia, Nairobi and other upcountry towns too got stuck at the Taru stretch, with the first bus that left Nairobi at 5pm on Tuesday arriving in Mombasa at noon Wednesday.

A traveller, Mr Brian Wachira, who was travelling to Nairobi to prepare for his wedding, and Mr Charles Lwanga narrated their agony to the Nation.

“I left Mombasa at 9.30pm yesterday. I am only at Taru, 60 kilometres away.

“Things are very bad. Traffic is not moving,” said Mr Wachira on Wednesday.

Mr Lwanga said he left Nairobi at 5pm on Tuesday. He was in the first bus that arrived in Mombasa at noon Wednesday after staying in the jam for 17 hours.

Traffic jams have recently become a common occurrence between Mariakani and Bachuma Gate, a stretch of about 50 kilometres.

Coast regional traffic police commandant Martin Kariuki said he had mobilised a contingent of traffic officers from Voi, Mackinnon Road, Taru, Samburu and Mariakani to deal with the situation.

“I am here with enough officers trying to direct vehicles but it’s hard because it has rained and the diversion is muddy,” said Mr Kariuki.

Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) Chief Executive Officer Wellington Kiverenge said the jam had caused massive losses to transporters and travellers.

“The jam is a major blow to (the) transport business in the entire northern corridor. It has affected not only Kenya but the whole eastern Africa region,” he said.

Kenya National Highways Authority official Charles Njogu said engineers were expected at the site to deal with the problem.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION