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UGANDA: Landslide risk as rains drench eastern districts

SOROTI, 15 August 2011 (IRIN) - Thousands of people are at risk from landslides in eastern Uganda following torrential rains in several districts, according to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS).

"No [fewer] than 10,000 people are at risk in eight districts around Mt Elgon," Martin Owor, Commissioner for Disaster Preparedness and Management in the OPM, said. "We are reminding people to move to safer locations because the landslides are already occurring."

Richard Nataka, URCS Secretary-General, said landslides in Bumwalukani village, Bulucheke in Bududa District, last week seriously injured eight people.

Bududa is where torrential rains triggered landslides in March 2010, killing 300 people and forcing thousands to abandon their homes in the mountainous villages of Nametsi, Kubehwo and Namangasa. Many of those affected were relocated to Kiryandongo district, 300km northwest of Bududa, but some have yet to move.

In March, the Uganda National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) warned of a deepening crack on Mt Elgon that runs 40km from River Lwakhakha on the Uganda-Kenya border through Manafwa, Bududa, Mbale, Sironko and Kapchorwa districts.

''Seven people died when a big rock gave way last week''
Owor said the affected districts also included Mbale, Manafwa, Sironko and Kapchorwa. "People are heeding our message and moving to points of safety," he told IRIN on 15 August. "We had a huge landslide a few days ago [in Bududa], but nobody died. This proves that the message, that when it is raining you move away, is working."

The OPM, which has so far delivered 40MT of food to the area, was encouraging people moving to safer ground to move in with relatives to avoid creating camps.

The URCS also warned of risk from landslides in Kaabong district of Karamoja in northeastern Uganda, but Owor said the numbers at risk were not high.

"Seven people died when a big rock gave way last week," the URCS’s Nataka said. The incident happened in Morulem village, Kawalakol Subcounty, where Nawoyagum rocks gave way on 10 August. URCS said three bodies were still trapped under debris by 12 August, and thousands were at risk.

"The current rains have also raised water, sanitation and hygiene challenges, including the risk of cholera," Nataka told IRIN on 15 August.

The main source of water for domestic use in Karamoja is boreholes, but unsanitary human waste disposal is prolific, according to a May study by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the government and the NGO Action Against Hunger. Families using the bush for waste disposal ranged from 50.3 percent in Kaabong to 95 percent in Amudat.

Major roads have also been flooded in Karamoja, a region made up of several districts including Kaabong, Abim, Kotido, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Napak and Moroto. Last week, IRIN witnessed flooding in Napak that caused some cars to stall precariously on a bridge.

Abim district chairperson Naman Ocero told local reporters that rains had also cut off his area. Local sources said the roads that connect Moroto and Kotido districts had been cut off after a bridge at Lopei collapsed, while the bridge at Obalanga on the Soroti to Kotido route had been washed away.

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Theme (s): Early Warning, Environment, Natural Disasters,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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