Landslides kill 1,000 in Bugisu over the past decade

Friday December 6 2019

Residents carry a coffin containing the remains of thei

Residents carry a coffin containing the remains of their loved one in Bunamasa Village in Bushika Sub-county in Bududa District yesterday. PHOTO BY LEONARD MUKOOLI 


A t least 1,000 people have reportedly been killed by landslides in Bugisu Sub-region over the past 10 years, an average of 100 people killed every month, Daily Monitor has established.

Out of the 1,000 deaths, 70 per cent were registered in Bududa District.
In 2010 for instance, more than 100 people were confirmed dead and 350 feared dead. They have not been accounted for to date.
They were killed in a landslide in Nametsi Village in Bukalasi Sub-county, Bududa, and more than 5,000 others were displaced.

Mr Robert Tukei, the Elgon police spokesperson, said the figure could be higher because some of the victims are never accounted for.
“It could reach 1,000 people if we count from 2010 because apart from those whose bodies are found, others remain unaccounted for,” he said, adding that he needs to find out the exact figure.

Mr Wilson Watira, the Bududa chairperson, said his district is the most affected.
“Bududa has the highest number of people who have died due to landslides and more 5,000 households are still at higher risk,” he said.
In June 2012, another landslide occurred in Namaga and Bunakasala villages in Bumwalukani Sub-county in Bududa, leaving about 450 people reportedly dead and property, including houses, destroyed and livestock killed.

In October 2018, 42 people were reportedly killed and more than 500 people displaced in Suume Village in Bukalasi Sub-county in Bududa.
In August 2017, a landslide hit Bufupa parish in Masaba Sub-county in Sironko District, killing seven people and displacing hundreds.

In June this year, a landslide occurred in Buwali Sub-county, leaving five people dead and more than 400 displaced in Bududa.
Multiple landslides occurred on Tuesday in Sironko and Bududa districts, killing eight people and displacing hundreds.


A statement issued by Mr Martin Owor, the commissioner of Disaster Preparedness and Management, on October 13, 2018, indicated that 67 landslides were registered between May and October in Namisindwa, Manafwa, Sironko, Bududa and Bulambuli districts but there were no deaths registered.

Mr John Baptist Nambeshe, the Manjiya County MP in Bududa, blamed government for delaying to relocate families living in landslide-prone areas to safe places.

“This government has no viable and tangible programme, which can rescue people at risk of landslides. This is why our people are dying as they watch,” he said.

Mr Nambeshe said as local leaders, they advised government to consider paying landslide victims so that they can find alternative land for settlement.

He added that the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) is focused on constructing houses for the victims due to selfish reasons.
“The resettlement project is an income-generating project for some people in the ministry. You can imagine how long they will take before they construct 1,000 houses yet the number of people at risk is more than 10,000 families,” Mr Nambeshe said.

He advised government to relocate the survivors and other people living in the landslide prone areas to approved centres within the district, saying they are safer.

Mr Richard Bikala, a resident of Bunamasa
Mr Richard Bikala, a resident of Bunamasa Village in Bududa District, gathers his belongings following landslides yesterday. PHOTO BY MICHAEL WONIALA

According to Mr Nambeshe, the centres suggested by the district council and approved by the Cabinet sub-committee include Namaitsu, Matenje, Bukari, Bubungi, Footo, Busanza, Nalwanza, Randa and Bubungi, among others.

Mr Simuya Maduku, the Bushika Sub-county councillor, said government’s other initiatives such as installation of early warning system for landslides have also failed.

In October, government in partnership with universities of Maryland and Strasburg from United States and France, respectively installed early warning system for landslides in Mt Elgon Sub-region to mitigate loss of lives and property during such disasters.

Efforts to get a comment from OPM officials were futile, but in June, the State minister for Disaster Preparedness, Mr Musa Ecweru, said government had agreed to solicit funds to pay the victims so that they resettle themselves.

Meanwhile, the heavy rain pounding the sub-region is hampering efforts by Bududa and Sironko residents from locating bodies of their missing relatives.

Residents are using rudimentary tools such as hand hoes to dig through the rubble and mud.
“We are using whatever means we could afford to dig through the mud to rescue our loved ones,” Ms Agnes Nambuyi, a survivor, said. At least eight bodies have so far been recovered.

Three bodies were retrieved in Namasa and Naposhi villages in Bushika Sub -county and one in Naroko Village in Bunabutiti Sub-county, Bududa.
Four bodies were recovered in Bunagisa Village in Shimoma Parish in Zesui Sub-county, Sironko.

In Bududa, more than 47 people are feared dead and are not yet accounted for while in Sironko, more than eight people are also feared dead.
Mr Francis Kutosi, the Naposhi Village chairperson and survivor, said government should help them with equipment to retrieve the bodies.
“We have not yet lost hope because we know they are buried down there,” he said.

Survivors speak
Mr Moris Wasukira, a survivor, appealed to government to come to their rescue.
“We need urgent government intervention because there are signs of cracks on these steep slopes,” he said. Earlier, Mr Owor said the relocation of the victims in the second phase is soon.

Ms Gloria Nambuyi, another survivor, said they lack shelter and food.
“We are depressed and traumatised by what has happened. We have no shelter or food. Government should take us away from here,” she said.
Mr Watira said the state of the roads was also hindering them from finding missing persons. “We have called for reinforcement from different government departments, including police, UPDF but they are yet to arrive,” he said.