Kenya Flying Labs helping with recovery efforts after deadly flooding

Many of us would be aware of the humanitarian situation developing in east Africa, where flooding due to heavy rains has resulted in the death of at least 420 people in Kenya and Tanzania.

Starting on the 18th of April 2024, the floods have swept most parts of Kenya, affecting people in 33 of the 47 counties, while in Tanzania, devastation has been felt mostly in the northern parts of the country.

In the face of this devastation in Kenya, the local custodian of the Flying labs franchise, Kenya Flying Labs, has been working with the Red Cross Society, to help with recovery efforts in the aftermath of one of the most destructive cases of flooding experienced in years in the country.

The capital Nairobi and surrounding areas have borne the brunt of the destruction, with both the Nairobi and the Athi rivers bursting their banks, displacing 40,000 people. Latest local reports have the death toll on at least 257, with 188 injuries, 70 missing and 293,661 displaced people.  

Kenyan President William Ruto declared a public holiday on 10 May to mourn the victims of the floods.

“In response, Kenya Flying Labs UAS pilots have teamed up with those from Kenya Red Cross, a leading humanitarian organization, using drones to provide crucial support in assessing the extent of flooding, identifying areas of high risk, and mapping affected areas within communities,” the start-up said recently.

“Drones, equipped with high-resolution cameras and advanced sensors, have proved to be invaluable tools in disaster management. In the context of flooding, they are deployed to conduct rapid aerial surveys, capturing real-time imagery and data to assess the extent of damage and identify areas in need of immediate assistance.

“This bird’s-eye view enables responders to prioritize resources and coordinate relief efforts more efficiently.”

The work of the drones and other recovery and relief efforts has helped authorities and disaster management stakeholders in the country identify areas of priority need, with residents being asked to move to higher ground for their own safety.

People living in areas identified as too dangerous areas around the country – such as near rivers, dams and water reservoirs – will be moved to land provided by the National Youth Service.

The national government and the military have also been mobilised to work with counties to support those in distress. Kiambu county announced measures to mitigate the situation, including building inspections.

As the flooding situation evolves, Kenya Flying Labs and Kenya Red Cross remain committed to collaborating to support the affected communities,” the Flying Labs start-up added.

With the power of technology and partnership, a Kenya more resilient in the face of future disasters is possible.

“Our thoughts are with all those impacted by the floods, and we urge coordinated efforts from government agencies, humanitarian organisations, and the international community to mitigate the impact of this disaster and support affected communities in their recovery efforts.”

Disaster recovery is the biggest reason why the Flying Labs network – which will celebrate its tenth anniversary next September – exists today, having been born in the wake of the September 2015 earthquake devastation in Nepal; which prompted engineers at Kathmandu University and Kathmandu Living Labs to seek the help of WeRobotics with training on how to scale the positive impact of recovery efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake disaster.

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