Water and gravity

The night before I arrived at RVA, it poured. Five and a half inches (almost 14 cm) in the span of a few hours. Because the campus is sitting on the side of one big hill, and this rainy season has been exceptionally rainy, the circumstances were ripe for the series of landslides that followed. One landslide happened a few miles away, and crushed at least one home, killing three girls from the same family. One landslide blocked the main road leading to Kijabe. And one landslide hit the very edge of the RVA campus, knocking down a corner of the perimeter fence and turning what was once a steep tarmac road into a river of mud and debris. I walked over to see this last landslide and was awe-struck by its power to make a place completely unrecognizable.

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Directly above RVA is the main railroad track connecting Kenya and Uganda. It was completely blocked by the landslide, but also probably helped to curb what could have been worse damage below.
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Note the railroad tracks in the foreground.
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If you look carefully on the hill in the background, you can see the brown trail where the avalanche of mud tore through the forest before it reached the tracks.
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You can be sure the family in this house was extremely grateful that the mud changed its course instead of destroying their home!
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A few curious RVA students came to check out the aftermath.
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What a powerful reminder of our frailty in the face of the unrelenting force of nature. The speaker at RVA’s service that Sunday referenced one of my favorite psalms from the Old Testament as he grappled with the recent events:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46:1-3, 6-7

2 thoughts on “Water and gravity

  1. It seems like a pretty well vegetated area; do we know why those landslides occur? Obviously something to do with the makeup of the soil but geez it’d be nice to know if growing certain crops in certain places would help.

    • good question. actually, that area above the school used to all be really thick forest with huge trees and a thick undergrowth. it has been steadily deforested over the years for charcoal production, so less and less is what it used to be. it’s really one of the sad changes to see whenever i visit – more and more bare spots where i remember there to be trees. anyway, this very well could be the major reason for these landslides… but i’m also not sure what the history of landslides in that area is, so can’t be certain of the cause of these recent ones. sounds like the kenya wildlife service is starting to crack down on the ‘tree poachers’ but they are not always successful, and of course there are a lot of politics involved. sticky and complicated, and sad.

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