18 feared dead and thousands more at risk following landslides
By Catherine Ntabadde
The Uganda Red Cross Society has been assisting in the search and rescue operations following a landslide in the Bududa district of the country which left an estimate 18 people dead and hundreds displaced. Thousands more are said to be at risk of further landslides caused by floods in the region.
In the village of Bunukasala, thousands of onlookers gathered to watch and wait for any good – or bad – news. A woman cries loudly. She lost four children in a mudslide.
Michael Richard Nataka, Secretary General of the Uganda Red Cross Society, says the rescue efforts have been hampered by the amount of earth swept down by the landslides. The landslides washed away everything including houses, trees, banana plantations, and livestock in the area of about 200 meters wide. The landslides buried 15 of the 41 houses in Bunakasala village.
Some houses in the village remain intact, but villagers are staying away in fear of further landslides.
Stephen Wamukota, Red Cross Mbale regional program manager, says by June 26, 112 survivors had been traced by the organzation, though a tracking desk set up in the village. “By last evening, we managed to trace the survivors. These people are living with host families,” he said.
Rapid assessments by local Red Cross staff indicate that 3, 368 people are at high risk and need to be relocated immediately. These are people living in villages surrounding Bunakasala.
Uganda’s State Minister for Disaster Preparedness, Musa Ecweru said government at the moment does not have plans to relocate communities. He appealed to those affected to temporarily stay with relatives in safer areas.
The request to relocate follows pronounced cracks on Mt. Elgon and other hilly areas like in Bundibugyo, Kabarole, Kasese, Kyenjojo, Kisoro and Kabale.
Nine people injured by the landslides are recovering at Bududa Hospital, and today a rescue team is still excavating at the site.
IN 2010, the same sub-county suffered heavy landslides that buried over 350 people. Only 160 bodies were retrieved.
Mr Nataka says essential household items have been pre-positioned at the Mbale region warehouse and will be distributed to the survivors. In addition, the Office of Prime Minister will be sending 100 bags of maize flour and 50 bags of beans for distribution by the Red Cross to help with immediate nutritional needs.
The Uganda government and the Uganda Red Cross Society are currently collaborating on legislation that anchors the country's disaster management structures and facilitates the entry of foreign emergency assistance into the country.