Five dead, dozens missing in Uganda landslides: Red Cross

Damaged house is seen after a landslide in Bududa, Uganda, in this Oct. 12, 2018 file photo. — Reuters

KAMPALA — Five people have died and dozens are missing after heavy rains triggered a series of landslides in eastern Uganda's mountainous Bududa district, the Red Cross said on Wednesday.

The organization said that around 50 people were believed missing and 150 houses destroyed after the landslides on Tuesday night in the foothills of Mount Elgon — an extinct volcano with five major peaks.

"Five confirmed dead," said Uganda Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita, adding these included a 73-year-old woman and several children.

"There were multiple landslides," in Bududa district, "but for now Red Cross has concentrated in the worst hit areas", she said in a statement.

"The local Red Cross branch volunteers together with the local police joined efforts and retrieved the bodies.

"The affected areas have steep slopes. It is threatening to rain again (and) accessibility is still a challenge," she added.

Local lawmaker Godfrey Watenga said the landslides had taken place late on Tuesday evening.

"It is a tragic occurrence. Many people are said to be dead and many missing but we are trying to get the details as the terrain here is difficult to maneuver and get to the affected villages."

Bududa district, which lies on the border between Uganda and Kenya, is a high risk area for landslides.

In 2018 at least 41 people were killed after a river in the region burst its banks, and in 2010 at least 100 people were killed in a landslide.

A statement from the office of Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said that "there are reports of displacement and destruction of property as well as missing persons."

After the 2010 landslide, the government said that the region, where people live on extremely steep slopes, was too dangerous to be lived in and that a program was under way to re-locate residents.

However similar disasters claimed lives in 2011, 2012 and 2016.

"In total, over 100,000 people living precariously on the slopes of Mount Elgon are estimated to be at great danger and requiring relocation" to avoid the danger of landslides, said the statement from Rugunda's office. — AFP