In the late hours of Monday, March 1st, mudslides buried three villages in Uganda’s eastern Bududa district, which has experienced exceptionally heavy rainfall. CRS is currently procuring essential relief items for distribution in affected areas. Yesterday, CRS staff (CRS is a Caritas member in the USA) met with local Caritas partners in Bududa parish to better assess the situation. Here is an update from CRS Uganda Head of Programming Cecilia Adalla.
Rains started on Monday at around noon and heavy downpours continued for hours. According to the Bududa parish priest, the two villages of Mabono and Nametsi bore the brunt of the landslides. The priest said that the average population of each village is about 800 people.
We were told that in Nametsi people saw water rushing down the mountains. Many took shelter at the market area as they couldn’t go to their homes due to the force of the water. Around 100 children from the Catholic school in Nametsi also took shelter at the market area. They had already left school and couldn’t go home.
Around 8 pm, the villagers heard a very loud noise that sounded like an explosion. A huge stone broke from the mountain and rolled down toward the market area, destroying everything in its path. Mudslides and landslides followed, completely destroying a health center, the market area and the Church of God, where there were people praying. So far, the students who took shelter at the market area have not been found. The mudslides narrowly missed the Catholic church and school; all of the children who had remained at the school survived.
Later we drove to the two sites where camps are being established for survivors of the landslides. We found no displaced people at these sites yet, though we learned that a food distribution had taken place earlier. The local government administrator and the parish priest reported that most of the survivors have refused to relocate to these sites as they continue to try to find their relatives in the disaster area. Many are using hoes and spades to dig through the mud and earth.
Heavy rain forced us to return to Bududa parish, where we met with parish vice chairman Fred Mutanja. He informed us that the latest known numbers were that 109 bodies had been recovered and 56 people had been rescued and taken to the local health center. Of those who perished, 91 are from Nametsi village and 18 are from Mabono. These villages are about 12 miles from Bududa town, with the last 4 miles being accessible only by foot. The walk is even more difficult now due to the muddy terrain.
There is an immediate need for food for displaced families and also for seed so families whose fields were buried in the slides can replant crops. Another immediate challenge is meeting the needs of survivors in other villages. There is concern that if the rain continues more villages may be affected, with road access possibly cut off. The bridges are also weak and could be washed away.
Reported by Debbie DeVoe, CRS regional information officer for eastern and southern Africa. This article orginally appeared on CRS Voices