EASTERN UGANDA – On Thursday evening, Bududa district chairperson Wilson Watira told New Vision that 40 dead bodies had been recovered so far after a river burst its banks following heavy rains, sending muddy water coursing through a market.
Despite the statistic, hundreds are feared dead because some areas are still not accessible.
A cloud of helplessness hang over the area as residents looked on in the aftermath of the deadly disaster. (Credit: Paul Watala)
President Yoweri Museveni said the Government had dispatched rescue teams to Bududa following the disaster.
Museveni, who was away in London to attend a conference on illegal wildlife trade, tweeted Thursday, urging residents to “co-operate with authorities to mitigate possible further danger”.
“I have received the sad news of landslides wreaking havoc in Bududa district, killing a yet-to-specified number of residents. The government has dispatched rescue teams to the affected areas.
“The government will look at the other options available to stop further occurrences of these disasters. My condolences to those who have lost their dear ones in this catastrophe,” the President tweeted.
I have received the sad news of landslides wreaking havoc in Bududa District, killing a yet-to-specified number of residents. The government has dispatched rescue teams to the affected areas. I urge residents to cooperate with authorities to mitigate possible further danger.
— Yoweri K Museveni (@KagutaMuseveni) October 11, 2018
While 40 bodies had been recovered by late Thursday, hundreds are feared dead. (Credit: Paul Watala)
Martin Owor, the commissioner for disaster preparedness in the Office of the Prime Minister, said the river burst its banks at about 2:30pm local time following a downpour “and a landslide up the mountain”.
“It rolled big boulders through a village in Bukalasi sub-county, killing several people,” he said in a statement.
“Twenty-five (25) bodies, including four children, have been recovered while many persons are still missing.”
Many people were injured and several others displaced.
“A detailed disaster loss and damage report will be issued after the ongoing assessment,” Owor said.
It is understood that relief supplies, including food, blankets, tents, tarpaulins, jerricans, saucepans for survivors will arrive in Bududa “before midday tomorrow [Friday]”.
“We are reaching the peak of the second rainy season and it rained very heavily today,” Owor told AFP.
The disaster happened when River Tsuume burst its banks. (Credit: Paul Watala)
Earlier the Uganda Red Cross said in a statement that at least seven people had been buried after a “massive landslide” in Bukalasi.
“The preliminary report indicates that the number is likely to increase from the reported seven but we are yet to establish the actual numbers,” Uganda Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita said in a statement.
Nakasiita described the situation as tense with “community members… scared and fleeing from their homes.”
She shared photos of the scene on WhatsApp, including images of dismembered corpses caked in mud laid out by the river.
Some of the bodies have been partly covered with banana leaves by members of the public.
According to Bududa district chairperson, recovery efforts are restricted due to limited accessibility and navigation in the area. (Credit: Paul Watala)
Owor said however that there was no landslide. “A river which burst its banks in Bukalasi swept through a trading centre,” he said.
Bududa district in the foothills of Mount Elgon, which lies on the border between Uganda and Kenya, is a high risk area for landslides.
At least 100 people were reported killed in a landslide in Bududa in March 2010 and in 2012 landslides destroyed three villages.
Government efforts to move vulnerable people to neighbouring districts have faced resistance from residents.
RECENT LANDSLIDES IN BUDUDA
March 2010: Landslides killed about 150 people and displaced over 10,000, in Nametsi sub-county, Bududa district.
March 2011: A landslide swept the slopes of Mt. Elgon, razing three villages in Bududa district (Kubehwo, Namangasa and Nametsi) located in Bukalasi sub-county. Ninety-two bodies out of the 365 people were recovered and only 31 survivors were rescued from the three affected villages.
June 2012: Landslides occurred at Bunakasala parish, Bududa district, sweeping through four villages after a heavy downpour in the area for two days. At least nine were injured and 15 houses were buried.