UGANDA: After landslides in the east, now flooding
Red Cross volunteers survey damage wreaked by landslide that struck eastern Uganda’s Bududa district (file photo)
KAMPALA, 5 March 2010 (IRIN) - The heavy rains that caused landslides in eastern Uganda, burying hundreds of people in Bududa district, have continued pounding the region, displacing thousands more in neighbouring lowlands, according to an official.
At least 2,000 people had been left homeless after water flooded their homes in Butalega district, Edward Wabudi, resident district commissioner, told IRIN on 4 March.
“Seven villages including Butaleja town council, are affected,” he said. “We are advising people to uproot their crops that are ready so that their food is not destroyed in the gardens.”
Some of the affected people had decamped to higher ground where they were being given food and non-food items, he added. Various relief agencies have dispatched teams to the area to assess the situation.
Landslides washed away villages on 1 March, killing at least 80 people. Another 300 are still missing, while heavy rains, difficult terrain and inadequate equipment have hindered recovery efforts.
Bududa District chief administrative officer Vitalis Oswan said two survivors who were retrieved on 3 March from the rubble later died in Mbale hospital.
Fears of disease outbreak were rife as water was becoming contaminated and access was slowed down by the rains.
“Bodies from the landslides in Bududa have been washed down and we see them floating on the heavy current streams from the mountain,” Wabudi said. “It seems some graves were destroyed because some coffins have been seen floating.”
The Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS), which started distributing blankets, tarpaulins, tents, jerry cans, pans, plates and cups to affected households, stopped work after a heavy downpour hit the area.
“Heavy rains have disrupted our distribution exercise of non-food items today,” URCS programme officer in charge of disaster management, Keven Nabutuwa, told IRIN.
“Water is becoming brown, indicating that it is getting contaminated quickly and we fear that cholera may break out,” he added. “Latrines were washed away and sanitation has been compromised, but we are still struggling to cope with the magnitude of the problem.”
The remote affected villages of Nametsi, Kubehwo and Namangasa, located high in the Mt Elgon hills, had a population of more than 3,000 people.
The health centre at Nametsi was buried in mud, leaving the only functional facilities at Bukalasi health centre, 3km away, and Bududa hospital, 15km away.
|After a week we shall just declare the area a mass grave
"We found some body parts, which we have decided not to count as a whole for now," said Musa Ecweru, the Minister for Disaster Preparedness, who was in the area.
Hundreds of rescuers were still searching for bodies using shovels, hoes and bare hands to dig through the mud. "It is next to impossible to use bulldozers and any heavy equipment,” Ecweru told IRIN. “The earth is very delicate and heavy machinery could cause more landslides."
Bududa resident district commissioner Wanzusi Wasieba said hope was quickly running out of finding any survivors. “After a week we shall just declare the area a mass grave,” he told IRIN.
The URCS, UN agencies and NGOs were by 4 March providing food, water and other essentials, and a mobile clinic had been set up.