At least 20 killed in Kenyan floods - Red Cross

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* An estimated 70,000 affected by floods

* Flooding expected to ease impact of drought

NAIROBI, Jan 4 (Reuters) - At least 20 people have been killed in flash floods in Kenya over the last week following torrential rains that have left tens of thousands in need of aid, the Red Cross said on Monday.

The heavy rains have been blamed on El Nino weather patterns across east Africa, which have caused landslides and affected an estimated 70,000 people in eastern and northeast Kenya.

"The rains have caused death, swept homes away and destroyed food crops leaving an estimated 30,000 people in dire need of relief aid," said Abbas Gullet, the secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross Society.

Gullet told Reuters the flooding had killed at least 20 people across the country but numbers were likely to rise once a countrywide assessment is complete.

Though the rains are destructive, they are expected to make life easier in some areas that are still emerging from one of the worst drought spells in years.

"This also means that Kenya will have more water supply and pasture for livestock compared to last year," said Gullet.

El Nino, which means "little boy" in Spanish, is driven by abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean and can have a major influence on global weather. (Reporting by Frank Nyakairu; Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura and Noah Barkin)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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