Seven feared dead after crossing flooded river in Makueni

At least seven people are feared dead after they were swept away by a flooded river in south-eastern Kenya.

A local chief said they were sitting on a log in the middle of the river as they tried to cross when the floodwaters rose and took them away.

The group was returning to their homes in Makueni County after meeting First Lady Rachel Ruto in Nairobi.

Kenya, as well as neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia, are grappling with their worst flooding in recent history.

Witnesses told local media that several people had been left stranded after the Muooni River flooded following several hours of intense rain, but the group resolved to attempt crossing it anyway on Thursday evening.

"They were sitting on a log floating in the middle of the river after being overwhelmed by the raging waters as they tried to cross," the area chief Norman Musyoki told privately owned Daily Nation newspaper.

"A sudden swelling of the river swept them away as a crowd of witnesses looked on helplessly."

He said that authorities were trying to determine the exact number in the group, but witness accounts say at least seven were swept away.

Rescue and recovery efforts by local authorities and the Kenya Red Cross are currently under way.

Ongoing heavy rains and flooding - which are linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon - have killed at least 71 people and displaced more than 150,000 in Kenya, according to the Kenya Red Cross.

El Niño is caused by the Pacific Ocean warming and is linked to flooding, cyclones, drought, and wildfires.

Thirty-three out of 47 counties have been affected, but Makueni is one of the most affected.

Despite the widespread devastation, Kenya's Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua on Wednesday said that the national government would not fund flood-response efforts.

The floods have killed more than 130 people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, according to the aid agency Oxfam.

Many factors contribute to flooding, but a warming atmosphere caused by climate change makes extreme rainfall more likely.