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Over 250 confirmed missing

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Volunteers search for the bodies of landslide victims. PHOTO BY KATHERINE HAYWOOD 

By Tabu Butagira & David Mafabi

Posted  Saturday, March 6   2010 at  00:00

In Summary

  • Damage estimated at shs3 billion
  • 4,000 still living in mudslide-prone areas on the foot of Mt. Elgon
  • Shs153 million needed to restore the livestock
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Bududa

The number of landslide victims whose corpses have been retrieved since Tuesday was up at 83 by 12 p.m. yesterday, according to Mr Oswan Vitalis, the Bududa District Chief Administrative Officer. Slightly more than 200 people remained unaccounted for by press time.

Mr Vitalis told Saturday Monitor that six more bodies were dug up on Thursday, by UPDF and local volunteers who are using hoes, pick axes and spades – and in some instances bare hands - to open up more than two-metre thick sludge over 3.3 square kilometres of flattened area

By press time, the Prime Minister, Prof. Apolo Nsibambi had just arrived in Bududa and was due to tour two sites in Bukalasi and Bumayoka sub-counties where government hopes to re-settle some 4,000 residents presently living in mudslide-prone areas on the foot of Mt. Elgon.

“Our biggest challenge is trying to convince these people in the hills to come down to safer areas,” said Mr Vitalis, “We are grateful to the government of Uganda and donor community for responding quickly.”

But the lack of reliable data on population continued to stagger information on number of people missing after the disaster as Bududa officials, on Thursday, launched an appeal for nearly Shs3 billion to rebuild buried villages.

The appeal fund, which excludes monies required for relief assistance and re-settlement, is about a-quarter of the district’s Shs12 billion 2009/10 budget.
Figures released by Mr Vitalis’ office indicate that 255 people have been confirmed as missing, lower than the hitherto 350 reported earlier, from among the 871 known residents in four villages.

Missing people
Officials said Nametsi, where 250 people are still unaccounted for, was the most affected area while five people in Matuwa out of a population of 180 are also missing.

No figures were available for those who could have perished in Kubewo and Ilira villages while officials said cumulatively, some 68 people were injured.
It is estimated that more than 50 people, many being school children, who had taken shelter from rain on porches of shops in Namatsi trading centre all died.
The avalanche triggered by days of heavy downpour that weakened rock formations up hill, rumbled down in two phases and Local Council officials say the first heap tumbled down around 6p.m., killing five people.

Two hours later, a larger mass yanked downhill by aggressive force of fast-rolling huge rocks came crashing with torrent of run-off water, which buried the three villages covering 3.3 kilometres, wholesome.

Four days since tragedy struck, the poorly-resourced Bududa District local government overwhelmed by the disaster, for the first time put figures to the scale of destruction, announcing a preliminary cost of Shs2.95 billion to compensate a few survivors and fix broken infrastructure.

Questions lingered over who the beneficiaries of compensation would be in instances where entire families and relatives all perished.

The official computations, reportedly corroborated by LC officials as well as Gombolola Internal Security Officers (Gisos), indicate some 176 cattle, 50 goats and an estimated 2,000 chicken were buried alive with their owners.

It would cost Shs153 million to restore the livestock, Mr Simon Peter Walumeri, the Bududa District planner said, while presenting the first comprehensive report by the local government on the ruin to a joint meeting of dozen humanitarian agencies on Thursday.

Fast response
“The losses and damages are extensive and a construction process will need a fast swing to action,” he said, adding: “The challenge is that the existing resources are inadequate to address this grand scale disaster and we still appeal to government and partners to scale up humanitarian assistance and rescue operation since our own capacities are wanting.”

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