Search continues for survivors of Uganda landslides

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Women stand and look at a landslide site in Shisakali village of Bududa district, eastern Uganda, on Wednesday. — AFP

SHISAKOLI, Uganda — Rescuers continued the search on Thursday for survivors of landslides caused by heavy rains in eastern Uganda as authorities said "most" of the missing have been accounted for and the confirmed death toll stood at six.

Officials said the deluge destroyed between 80 and 100 homes in the hilly, rural area Tuesday night, and the Red Cross had earlier put the number of missing at about 50.

"We have carried out the assessment and most missing people have been accounted for and are with their families," said national emergency and disaster preparedness coordinator Stephen Oluka, coordinating a military, civilian and police operation.

It had taken time to track them down as families got separated while fleeing the storms in darkness, he explained, and said: "the search and rescue exercise is ongoing."

Twenty-seven people were admitted to hospital, all in a "stable condition," according to Oluka.

The six killed — a woman of 73, three children, and two teenagers — were all buried on Thursday.

Seven-year-old Buteme, the daughter of Boniface Nabutanyi, was among those killed when homes collapsed in the village of Shisakoli in the Bududa district at the foot of Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano with five major peaks.

"When the rain intensified I stayed awake as the rest slept," Nabutanyi said.

"Then a loud bang, before water and heavy stones begun rolling towards our house, I begun evacuating everyone but because of darkness I didn't realize Buteme remained in the house and she was buried by the soil," he said by his daughter's graveside.

"I lost everything in the house, four cows, five goats and 80 hens all buried in the soil."

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

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

Efforts by the government to move inhabitants from high-risk zones have been met with resistance.

After the 2010 landslide, the government said the region, where people live on extremely steep slopes, was too dangerous to be inhabited and that a program was underway 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 a statement Wednesday from the office of Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda. — AFP


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