An estimated 450 people were by last night feared unaccounted for, following a series of devastating landslides that buried entire villages in parts of the mountainous Bugisu sub-region of Eastern Uganda.
At least 11 villages were reportedly buried in Bududa under mud and heavy boulders, resurrecting memories of the March 2010 and August 2011 landslides in the same areas. Government yesterday advised residents living near the affected villages to relocate to safer ground.
The mood was one of sorrow and depression, as residents, using what they could find, dug through
mounds of mud in a desperate attempt to rescue their loved ones.
Officials from the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) had by 7pm yesterday confirmed 18 people dead, 9 hospitalised and 72 survivors following the 2pm heavy downpour that triggered the landslides.
Nine victims of the landslide in Bulucheke had been referred to Bududa Hospital with serious injuries.
Two villages of Namaaga and Bunakasala in the Bumwalukani Sub-county, Bududa District were reportedly completely buried.
According to an eyewitness, Ms Rachael Namwono, 29, at least 30 homes in Mabaya Village, in Bulucheke Sub-county, with an estimated 300 men, women and children were completely buried. “At 2pm, the ground trembled, followed by heavy rumbling of soil and stones which covered our home,” Ms Namwono said.
According to the Bunamulembwa Village LC III Chairman Ernest Wayengera and the area LCI Chairperson Mr Peter Namulunyi, an estimated 100 households in the village were flattened. An estimated 150 people could not be accounted for by press time yesterday, they said.
In a statement to this newspaper, URCS said it’s secretary general, Mr Michael Richard Nataka, had also joined an emergency ground team in the conducting of a rapid vulnerability assessment. “The Uganda Red Cross Society has sent a team of volunteers to assess the situation and establish the number of people affected although local authorities have told Red Cross that there could be about 80 people in each of the villages,” URCS head of communications Catherine Ntabadde said yesterday.
Government also said it had swung into action. “The minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hon. Musa Ecweru will be travelling to Bududa District to assess the situation. Government is working towards ensuring that affected families receive necessary assistance in form of relief items,” government said in a statement yesterday. It could not, however, confirm the number of those dead.
In March 2010, a major landslide hit Bududa District, affecting the entire Nametsi Village. More than 300 people were feared buried by mud and thousands displaced. The government relocated most of the survivors to Kiryandongo District where they have been staying to-date. However, some residents declined to relocate, arguing land in Kiryandongo is not as fertile as the one back home.
Several alarms have also been given to those living on the Mt. Elgon slopes but residents largely remained unresponsive.