Five perish as fresh floods hit Kasese

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By John Thawite and Taddeo Bwambale

TWO new-born babies and a 77 year-old woman died on Thursday in a stampede at Kilembe Mines Hospital, as patients fled the hospital to escape approaching floods.

Two other unidentified people's bodies were seen floating down River Nyamwamba by eyewitnesses, although authorities had not identified them by press time.

The floods that hit the area at around 9.30 am on Thursday, cut off the Katiri -Kyanzuki road, which leads to the main Kilembe Mines offices and Kyanzuki.

One of the deceased (elderly woman) identified as Lucia Bwongereze, a resident of Ibanda, Bugoye Sub-County, had tried to run but fell and was stepped on by other patients.

Bwongereze, who had been receiving treatment for acute malaria, due to be discharged later on Thursday, according to Kilembe Mines Hospital's Medical Superintendent, Dr Edward Wefula.

The two babies, two and four days old, were in the intensive care unit and died as hospital staff struggled to evacuate them.

Kilembe Hospital closed

By last evening, Kilembe Hospital had been temporarily closed, pending an assessment by authorities, the health ministry's spokesperson, Rukia Nakamatte confirmed.

Dr Edward Wefula told New Vision that 195 in-patients who were admitted at the hospital were evacuated to nearby government health facilities.

Some of the patients were taken to Kasese Municipality Health Centre III, St Paul's Medical Centre and Bishop Masereka Medical Centre and Kagando Hospital.

In May last year, Kasese district was hit by floods that left seven people dead, 17 bridges swept and Kilembe Mines Hospital structures and equipment destroyed.

Kilembe Mines Hospital was affected by the floods which engulfed wards and destroyed medical equipment, forcing services to be temporarily suspended.

The latest floods hit the district just seven days after the district held a church service at Kilembe memory of last year's, floods. Residents prayed to God requesting that incident does not again.

Patients were thrown into panic when water flowed towards the hospital buildings, although it did not enter, the District Health Officer, Dr Peter Mukobi, explained.

Wilson Asaba, the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and focal person on disaster said the district had urgent need for a tractor-bulldozer to deepen the course of River Nyamwamba in order to restrain floods.

"We appeal to central government and partners for the equipment to help us deepen the river bed and remove the boulders for water to retrained," Asaba explained.

Residents trapped

All the houses in Kanyaruboga village were flooded, forcing residents to scamper in various directions. Some escaped via a hill overlooking Kanyaruboga village.

Margaret Biira, a mother of eight children blamed government for having done little to avert the disaster since last year. Some parts of Kilembe, Kasese town and surrounding areas were cut off by the floods although no casualties had been recorded by last evening.

However, Police was by press time struggling to rescue one person who had been trapped by the flooding River Nyamwamba. The district police commander Kasese Michael Musani Sabilah identified the victim only as Masumbuko.

Simultaneous floods also destroyed the bridges at Rivers Kithakena and Nyamughasani in Maliba and Kyalumba sub-counties respectively.

At a district emergency meeting held at Kilembe yesterday, the district leaders regretted the incident saying their efforts to tame the river were frustrated by lack of suitable equipment.

Along with district authorities, the Police Fire brigade moved to several areas to rescue residents and property as thick rain clouds built up further in the mountains.

Mine offices closed

By press time offices for Kilembe Mines Ltd and Tibet Hima mining company in Kanyaruboga were inaccessible and staff had sought refuge down in Kasese town.

Alex Byaruhanga, the Kilembe Mines Chief Accountant narrated that the mining company's administrative offices were flooded, forcing a group of Chinese to flee via a village path.

School destroyed

Two classrooms at Bulembia Primary School, a foot bridge constructed at Kyanzuki after last year's floods and a newly renovated tarmac road between Katiri and Bulembia.

A pupil at the school who walked the 12 kilometre distance from the Kyanzuki to Kasese town with her mother, father and three siblings said: "We have nowhere to study from since our school has been razed down like the Nurses village was last year."

More rains

Last month, the Department of Meteorology warned that most parts of the country would experience adverse weather in the months of April and May.

According to the weather forecast, the rain season is expected to peak in mid-May and reduce in early June, with western Uganda districts receiving near-normal to above normal rains.

State minister for relief and disaster preparedness, Musa Ecweru said Government was assessing the emergency and support to the district was being considered.