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Uganda: mudslides in Bududa leave scores dead

AT least 34 people have died in mudslides triggered by torrential rains in a mountainous area of eastern Uganda, charity officials have said. More victims were likely to be discovered when rescue reams access all the affected areas in the foothills of Mount Elgon, said Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita.

People were killed by boulders and chunks of mud rolling down hills following a sustained period of heavy rains on Thursday afternoon in the district of Bududa.

media_cameraResidents cross a river filled with mud in Bududa District. Picture: AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi

Houses were destroyed in at least three villages, and in some cases only body parts of the victims have been recovered from the mud, she said. “We expect the death toll to increase as some people are still missing,” she said. “It’s really bad.”

One survivor described running to safety with a friend after spotting a house being wiped away by the mudslide.

“School children, those who were drinking, market vendors, they were all swept away,” Paul Odoki said.

A river burst its banks, destroying a bridge and threatening settlements nearby, according to Martin Owor, a government commissioner in charge of disaster management.

media_cameraPeople cross the Sume river a day after it burst its banks in the eastern village of Nanyinza, in Uganda’s Bududa district. Picture: Isaac Kasamani/AFP

At least 31 bodies had been recovered and identified, Owor said. It was difficult to establish the number of dead because it had been a busy market day, lawmaker Godfrey Watenga Nabutanyi of Luteshe County told broadcaster NTV.

“Bridges are gone. Roads have been cut off.” Local official Wilson Watila estimated that about 100 houses had been swept away.

Residents wept over recovered bodies, while men dug into the mud with blunt pieces of wood in desperate efforts to find others.

media_cameraResidents look for survivors in a river filled with mud. More victims are likely to be discovered after rescue reams access all the affected areas in the foothills of Mount Elgon, said Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita. Picture: AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi

In March 2010 at least 100 people died in similar mudslides in Bududa, and injuries or deaths have been reported every year since then during the wet season.

Efforts by Uganda’s government over the years to relocate all residents away from steep slopes have not succeeded.

media_cameraResidents cross a swollen river after the disaster. Picture: AP Photo/Ronald Kabuubi

Originally published as School children ‘swept away’ in mudslide

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