At least five dead, over 50 missing after landslides in Uganda

Five people died and dozens were missing after heavy rains triggered a series of landslides in eastern Uganda.

A statement from the office of Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said on Wednesday "there are reports of displacement and destruction of property as well as missing persons" in the country's mountainous Bududa district.

"There's a team of Red Cross and ... local authorities on the ground in a rescue operation," said Julius Mucunguzi, a prime minister's office spokesman.

The Red Cross said about 50 people were believed missing and 150 houses destroyed after the mudslides 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 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.

High risk area

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

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

After the disaster, the government said the region, where people live on extremely steep slopes, was too dangerous to be lived in and a programme was launched to relocate residents. However, similar incidents 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 prime minister's office statement.

by www.aljazeera.com