Following weeks of rain and days of torrential downpour in part of Eastern Uganda, a major landslide on the slopes of Mt. Elgon occurred yesterday, claiming the lives of nearly 100 people confirmed dead at the time of going to press, while hundreds more are feared to have perished, too, as they remain missing from the count of survivors.
Three villages in total were wiped out in the location, known as Bukalasi subcounty. The missing reportedly also include about 100 school children who had taken shelter in one of the villages from the torrential downpour and who were swept away by the avalanche of water, mud, and rocks coming down the mountainside.
A health center, located between the villages, was also swept away, including patients and nursing staff, making first aid for injured survivors next to impossible in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
When news reached further down the mountain, the Ugandan security services, police, and army immediately dispatched contingents supported by the Mbale branch of the Red Cross Society and other similar charitable organiztions who arrived at the scene of the disaster with supplies and tents to provide shelter to the survivors and serve them with hot meals.
After assessing the area and the damage,an evacuation was ordered for other villages,too,as cracks on the mountain side and more heavy rains increased the chance of added landslides. Government ministers and area administrators were tasked to provide unbureaucratic help and assistance, and President Museveni has already indicated he would travel to the area to attend a memorial service after personally inspecting the relief efforts on site.
Reports of further landslides were also received overnight from other parts of Mt. Elgon, which has been inundated by rain over the weeks, prompting calls by aid organizations to evacuate all the villages on the higher mountain slopes to safer grounds until the rains ceased and the danger of imminent added landslides would subside as the ground dried up again.
Sources from the Uganda Wildlife Authority, insisting on absolute anonymity, also pointed out to this correspondent that the affected area was technically inside the national park but had been encroached, with villagers felling trees and cultivating on steep slopes, which may have been a contributing factor for the immense scale of the tragedy. The source did say that once the aftermath of the disaster has been dealt with, they will redouble their efforts to resettle encroachers and find them safer grounds away from areas prone to such natural disasters. This correspondent expresses his deep regret and sympathy to all the victims families and friends and offers prayers for the departed.