Landslides kills in 43 people in Eastern Uganda

Posted on | augustus 31, 2011 | No Comments

At least 43 people have been killed by landslides in Bulambuli District in eastern Uganda, local leaders and witnesses said. But Uganda Red Cross Society could only confirm 18 deaths. Fourteen other people remained unaccounted. Among the people killed was a local chief, his wife and all of his eight children after his house was buried by a mudslide.

The mud flow, which residents said is the most devastating ever witnessed in Sisiyi and Buluganya sub-counties in the last 20 years, buried the homes of 22 families. Rescue workers digging through the sludge with hoes, mattocks and pickaxes, and some scooping the soaked soil with their bare hands, had by 3:00pm Monday, retrieved 26 corpses.

The Local Council five (LC5) chairman Simon Wananzofu said “this is devastating; it is terrible.” “We can’t explain this but our appeal is for excavators to help retrieve the bodies trapped under the rubble and for relief.”

Bulambuli District

Bulambuli is one of the newly-created districts of Uganda at the border between Bugisu and Sebei, roughly 30 kilometres northeast of Mbale town.

Residents said the avalanche crashed and submerged parts of at least four hamlets between 1:00am and 3:00am on Sunday night following 17 hours of uninterrupted downpour, which also drenched large parts of central Uganda.

The rain continued to pound much of the Mt. Elgon region and National Environment Management Authority (Nema)’s Information Systems Specialist, Dr Mary Goretti Kitutu, speaking from the neighbouring Mbale District, predicted more mudslides. “The rain is the trigger for mudslides and people living higher up the mountainous areas have to run to lower, safer areas quickly,” she said. “If they do not leave the hills, there will be more disasters.

Gardening and construction activities are understood to have led to removal of grass and other vegetation cover crucial for holding rocks in place. As a result of these invasive actions, the soils are bare and easily get soaked and loosen, releasing dangerous mud and rock flows downhill, according to experts.

Last year, hundreds died in a similar incident nearby. Officials said then they would relocate up to half a million people to avoid any repeat.

However, following some local opposition to the plans only a few thousand – those deemed most at risk – were actually moved.

Red Cross workers and villagers are digging in the mud hoping to find survivors and retrieve bodies in the area 270km (167 miles) north-east of the capital, Kampala.

Several roads in the region have been cut after heavy rains over the past month.

Following last year’s landslide disaster on the slopes of Mount Elgon which killed over 3000 people, it was said that rapid population growth had led people to cut down trees on the mountains, making mudslides and flooding more active.

AUTHOR: Nangayi Guyson
URL: http://www.africanews.com/
E-MAIL: n.guyson [at] yahoo.com

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