A river swollen by heavy rains overflowed its banks, forcing at least 10,000 people to flee their homes and destroying thatched mud huts and crops in impoverished villages, a senior official said Tuesday.

The victims have taken shelter with relatives and on the grounds of two public schools, together with their livestock after the Sabaki River began flooding last week, the Malindi District Commissioner Jan Ireri said.

It was not immediately clear whether there were any fatalities in the floods that destroyed at least 100 homes, he said.

The displaced face food shortages after their crops and food stocks were swept away, Ireri said, adding that there were fears of an outbreak of waterborne diseases in the area.

The Red Cross was preparing to send tents, food aid, mosquito nets and medicines, said the organization's coordinator in the Malindi area, Ruth Muriungi.

The floods caught residents by surprise because the region has been hit by a searing drought.

Heavy rains upcountry, however, have dumped large volumes of water into the river, causing floods as it crosses Malindi before emptying into the nearby Indian Ocean.