Uganda: landslides sweep away villages

Mount Elgon

Mount Elgon

Burials are being held in Uganda for people killed in a mudslide which swept away three villages near the eastern town of Bududa.

A massive landslide that swept the slopes of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda on Monday night killed at least 90 people, with 350 missing and feared dead. The landslide wiped out three villages of Kubehwo, Namakansa and Nametsi located in Bukalasi sub-county in Bududa District.

According to Fr Gerald Magada, three parishes; Bududa, Buchunya, Bugitimwa and Nyondo parishes in Tororo diocese have been completely destroyed. In addition, a health centre in Bududa parish went down with more fifty people, staff and a number of school children who had taken shelter after it started raining heavily.

Recovery efforts have been hampered by the ragged and muddy terrain, and with use of machinery being ruled out. The army says the search operation will take months and that some of the bodies may never be found.

"We're getting bodies six feet to eight feet underground, nearly 2.5m, making it very hard as the area is muddy and rocky," Lt Col Wilson Kabera, in charge of the recovery operation, told the Catholic Information Service Africa (CISA)  by phone from the site. "We cannot get heavy earth-moving equipment to this point so we're basically using hand-held tools," he said.

Fr Magada says continuing heavy rain is hampering the operation. Whenever a shower starts, people flee the excavation scene fearing further landslides, he said.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni visited the area on Wednesday and said the mudslide was partly due to the loss of tree cover. The region, about 275km (170 miles) north-east of the capital Kampala, often suffers from landslides but this is an unusually high death toll.

Caritas Uganda is working with other aid agencies to support the survivors. The Red Cross has sent out appeals for more support for the survivors and to give decent burials to the bodies that have been recovered.

The UN is supplying tents and plastic sheeting for up to 5,000 people left homeless by the mudslide.

Mount Elgon is shared between Uganda and Kenya. It is said to be one of the few volcanic mountains visible from the Moon. 

Source: CISA

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