Heavy rains near the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa have swept away a road and slowed transport to a trickle on the main trade route into east Africa, officials said on Wednesday.
Mombasa port handles imports such as fuel and other vital goods for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Police officials reported tailbacks of more than 10 kilometres and said delays began at abound 10am local time when a temporary road about 50km from Mombasa was swept away. The road was being used as a diversion while the main highway leading to capital Nairobi was being repaired.
“We have been stuck here for over six hours. We are not moving at all. Other vehicles are overlapping and now everything is locked,” Peter Kiragu, a truck driver carrying steel metal to Uganda, told Reuters.
One police official said some vehicles started moving at around 6pm local time (1500 GMT), but the movement was extremely limited. “We are trying our best because it is a huge pile up,” said Martin Kariuki, the coastal region’s traffic police commandant.
Willingtone Kiberenge, acting chief executive of the Kenya Transporters’ Association, said his association had more than 400 confirmed trucks trapped on both side.
“It is going to cause major (financial) losses to us,” he added.
Kenya, which faces increasing competition from other countries like Tanzania and Djibouti in the bid to serve land-locked and rapidly-growing neighbours, has often faced criticism about the state of its pot-holed roads.
Kenya has begun construction of a Chinese-funded rail line, which will connect Mombasa to the Ugandan capital Kampala, speeding the flow of goods and taking pressure off its congested road network.