Landslides kill at least 15 in western Uganda

At least 15 people died in Rukooki, Kasese District, western Uganda after their homes were buried following Tuesday night mudslides caused by a heavy downpour that also left hundreds of residents displaced.

Several others are reported missing or feared dead as search and rescue operations by Uganda Red Cross officials, residents and local authorities intensify.

Red Cross officials said the death toll had risen to 15 after five more bodies were retrieved from the debris on Wednesday morning. Six other people have been rescued and transferred to a nearby hospital.

“Majority of the dead are mothers and children,” Uganda Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Nakasita said in a statement.

Simon Buhaka, the local council chairperson, said the bodies had been retrieved from the debris of collapsed houses following the night rain that lasted about six hours.

Mr Buhaka said most homesteads were knocked down at 3 am when their occupants were sleeping.

Locals have been using rudimentary tools like hoes and spades to search and retrieve the victims’ bodies.

Kasese District, where the disaster occurred, is prone to landslides, especially during the rainy season, because it sits in the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains that straddle the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

After a prolonged drought, heavy rains have fallen on much of Uganda since late July, causing deaths and flooding and the destruction of crops, homes and infrastructure.

Last week, two people died following a mudslide in neighbouring Bundibugyo District. Additionally, two people were swept away by floods in Kirembe, Kasese District.

In July, flooding caused by heavy rains killed at least 24 people in Mbale district in eastern Uganda.

The country's weather agency had warned it would be hit by unusually strong and destructive rains in the August-December season and advised people living in mountainous areas to be vigilant or evacuate to safer areas.