17 children killed in Kasese landslides
By John Thawite
The children perished when mudslides struck their sleeping rooms in Namuhuga South cell, Bulembia Division, Kasese Municipality and Kyondo sub-county, Bukonzo east constituency.
Fresh landslides have buried four more children alive in Kasese district following torrential seasonal rains that have hit the Rwenzori region.
The incident brings to seventeen the number of children so far killed in the landslides in Kasese district since 2011, mostly in Mahango sub-county which has lost eleven children.
The children perished when mudslides struck their sleeping rooms on Thursday in Namuhuga South cell, Bulembia Division, Kasese Municipality and Kyondo sub-county, Bukonzo east constituency.
The four-roomed permanent house in Namuhuga was constructed adjacent to a sharp cliff and above which some agricultural activities were taking place.
Namuhuga cell is part of the populous housing estate of Kilembe Mines, which houses some of the senior civil servants, private company workers, and politicians.
The Bulembia Division chairperson, Pascal Kasoke, named the kids that died in Namuhuga as Derrick Mumbere, 3, Wesley Mumbere John Sunday Masereka both aged 10.
Wesley Mumbere John Sunday Masereka were in Primary II and III Katiri primary school in primary two and three respectively.
Kasoke said another child, Maureen Kabugho, aged 7, who was also in the same room where her colleagues perished, was rescued and rushed to Kilembe Mines Hospital where he said she was undergoing treatment for injuries she had sustained in the incident.
“Kabugho is out of danger but she was only complaining of chest pain and her legs had been fractured,” a nurse at the hospital told New Vision yesterday morning.
Modesto Masereka, the father to Wesley Mumbere, Sunday John Masereka said Derrick Mumbere was his grandson.
Masereka, who now lives alone after he and his wife separated, said his dead children were living with their grandparents.
Their 70-year-old grandfather, John Tseghe Kaswa, narrated that said he was listening to his radio when he heard little Kabugho screaming in pain.
“I tried to open the open but failed until my neighbours arrived and helped her out. But by that time, the rest had all perished" Tseghe said.
Regretting the loss of his grandchildren and his house, he implored the government to him relocate his family to a safer place, saying he was too scared of continuing to live in his current home.
The Mayor Kasese Municipality, Godfrey Kiime Kabbyanga, and Rwenzori East Regional Police Commander (RPC), SP Samuel Asiimwe, were among the scores of leaders who visited Namuhuga to assess the situation.
Kabbyanga, who stays in a few meters from the scene of death, appealed to the Ministry of Disaster and Preparedness to come to the aid of the affected families.
“I am deeply grieved at the demise of three infants, as police we are grieved", SP Asiimwe said.
The RPC discouraged the residents in the hilly Mt Rwenzori areas from constructing houses in areas that prone to landslides.
Asiimwe also asked them temporarily relocate to safer houses and adopt modern methods of farming like terracing to minimise mudslides.
The fourth child died in Kyambiti village, Kyondo sub-county, Bukonzo East constituency.
Jovenale Muke, the sub-county chairperson, named the dead child as Comfort Mumbere, son to Isaac Thakondolha and Nelia Kabugho all who hail from Rwenguhya village in Kisinga Town Council.
He said that the infant was staying with his grandparents in Kyambiti village, where a room he was living in was hit by a rock at around 6 am.
" The repeated landslides in the district are very worrying because we cont tell when or where they will strike next,” Muke told New Vision by telephone.
In Kitholhu sub-County, two children of Baguma Kasulenge in Kiraro village also narrowly another landslide and were rushed to Bwera government hospital in Bukonzo West constituency with injuries.
Kasulenge's 16-year-old girl and a boy aged 7 were rescued from a mudslide that had trapped and them halfway.
Houses and property including crops have been destroyed and a number of people have sought refuge from their relatives.
Cultural practice endangering children
The former Environment and cultural sites Minister in the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu (Rwenzururu kingdom), Selevest Kule Walyuba, says children are the main victims of the landslides because the families allocate them rooms adjacent to the upper sides of the houses constructed in the mountainous district.
Walyuba says though culturally, children are not supposed to sleep in the rooms adjacent to cliffs, described the practices as now dangerous.
“The children are more venerable because when the mudslides occur, they usually hit the sides occupied by the children,” says, advising the communities to change the practice and use the rooms as stores instead.
According to Walyuba, none of the parents, who sleep in other parts of the houses, have been affected in all the known mudslides incidents.
" Children should sleep near rooms adjacent to master's rooms if we are to avoid such tragedies", maintains Walyuba.
The Kilembe and Kyondo landslides come barely two weeks after another landslide buried live two teenage sisters in their family house in Kyambarwa village, Mahango sub-county on October 14.
The due, Patience Biira, 15 and her 13-year-old sibling, Winnie Biira, both Primary leaving Examinations (PLE) candidates, died in their father, Eriano Baluku Bakalhania’s house as they were preparing to go to school but waiting for the heavy rain to cease.
In 2011, five children perished in a mudslide at their father, Kambale Mulemba’s home in Mahango village.
Later, three other kids, Believin Bwambale, 9, Winnie Biira, 5, and Constance Mbindule, 7 also died after torrential rains triggered landslides in Butalimuli village.
Their mother, Fridina Baluku Kyamukagha, and two other children survived narrowly as they were sleeping in another room.
In another family, a seven-year-old girl died in Nyakabingo Village, Rukooki Sub-county, after the upper wall of their house collapsed while she was sleeping
In its September-December (September- October-November-December (SOND) forecast issued October 25, the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA), forecasts lethal countrywide rains.
In the SOND, UNMA says the regions of Mt Rwenzori, Kigezi, Mt Elgon and Lake Victoria basin are the epicenters of the expected peak rains.
In the alert, the UNMA acting Executive Secretary, Paul Isabirye, says the rains are expected to cause mudslides in the mountainous areas, flooding, especially in the urban areas and low lying areas and lightning strikes coupled with strong winds.
"The heavy rain conditions will cause poor visibility, which is likely to pose danger to motorists,” says Isabirye in the alert.
He advises motorists and pedestrians to take the utmost care to minimise accidents that may result from such weather conditions.
UNMA also cautions road users to be vigilant as weak bridges are likely to be washed away.
“Lake users are advised to follow the UNMA Marine forecast updates for fishing, water transport, and small aircraft activities,” partly says the statement.
The public is also advised to avoid taking shelter under trees during rainfall to minimise exposure to lightning strikes and to listening to local media as updates will be provided “if conditions change significantly.”
Heavy rains explained
The Authority attributes the upsurge in the rainfall to “the moist winds blowing from the Indian Ocean and the Congo forests.”
Lillian Nkwenge, the Authority’s Principal Public Relations Officer, says the October 25 statement follows signs that the country was entering the rain peak period.
“During the forecast period, most parts of the country were headed “above-normal rains,” (more rains than are expected),” she told New Vision in a phone interview Saturday.
District environment officer warns
The district environment officer, Augustine Kooli, has repeatedly warned communities in Kasese against unplanned tree cutting and cultivating the hills bare, bush burning and destroying river banks.