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Deadly rains to hit Rwenzori, Kigezi areas

By John Thawite

Added 27th October 2019 08:29 AM

The Uganda National Meteorological Authority says equally endangered are the areas around Lake Victoria and the eastern parts of the country.

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The Uganda National Meteorological Authority says equally endangered are the areas around Lake Victoria and the eastern parts of the country.

CLIMATE     WEATHER FORECAST 

Communities living around the Mt Rwenzori and Kigezi regions risk suffering catastrophes unless they take precautionary measures against the current rains that are expected to worsen until Wednesday, October 30.

In a Friday October 25 alert, the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) says equally endangered are the areas around Lake Victoria and the eastern parts of the country, particularly Mt Elgon areas.

The statement, signed by the Authority’s Acting Executive Director, Paul Isabirye, says the rains are expected to cause mudslides in the mountainous areas, flooding, especially in the urban areas and low lying areas and lightning strikes coupled with strong winds.

"The heavy rain conditions will cause poor visibility, which is likely to pose danger to motorists,” says Isabirye in the alert.

He, therefore, advises motorists and pedestrians to take the utmost care to minimise accidents that may result from such weather conditions.

UNMA also cautions road users to be vigilantes as weak bridges are likely to be washed away.

“Lake users are advised to follow the UNMA Marine forecast updates for fishing, water transport, and small aircraft activities,” partly says the statement, which New Vision has obtained.

The public is also advised to avoid taking shelter under trees during rainfall to minimise exposure to lightning strikes and to listen to local media as updates will be provided “if conditions change significantly.”

Heavy rains explained

The Authority attributes the upsurge in the rainfall to “the moist winds blowing from the Indian Ocean and the Congo forests.”

It adds that the wet conditions being realised are peak rains of the September, October, November and December (SOND) rainfall season 2019.

Lillian Nkwenge, the Authority’s Principal Public Relations Officer, Communication Officer, says the Friday statement follows signs that the country was entering the rain peak period.

“During the forecast period, most parts of the country were headed “above-normal rains,” (more rains than are expected),” she told New Vision in a phone interview Saturday.

Previous disasters

A couple of weeks ago, landslides buried alive two teenage sisters, both of them perished in Bukumbya village, Mahango sub-county, on the slopes of Mt Rwenzori, Kasese district.

The 6:00am tragedy struck as Winnie Biira and her sister Patience Kabugho, both Primary Seven candidates were preparing to go to school but waiting for the overnight torrential rain to stop.

As the unsuspecting sisters were waiting in their family house, the landslides hit its upper walls, burying them alive according to the sub-county LC3 chairperson, Erick Mathu.

Their death brought to 13 the number of children that had so far died in landslides since 2013.

Kasese district has witnessed other disasters including the floods that devastated the area along rivers Nyamwamba, Rwimi, Mubuku, and Nyamugasani, killing a total of more than 15 people and destroying private and public property worth unspecified billions of shillings between 2013 and 2015.

More than 150 people have perished and thousands have been displaced following the periodic landlines in the Mt Elgon region, especially in Bududa district.

In response, government has this year relocated the most vulnerable to Bulambuli district, under a 10-year resettlement project that, according to Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, will cost government some sh35b.

Relocate, communities advised

In the September, October, November, and December (SOND) forecast, UNMA advises communities living on the mountain slopes and flooding areas to relocate to relatively safe places until the rains subside.

However, some parts like the Mt Rwenzori and Elgon areas, communities are hesitant to migrate from their ancestral homes due to the strong attachments to those places.

However, Nkwenge urged the communities to prioritise their security over traditional attachments to their ancestral land.

“I know we have a lot of attachments to our areas but this is an emergency, a matter of life and death,” she said Saturday.

She rhetorically asked, “Of what use is it for you to wait until the floods or landslide come and sweep you and your family to death?”

She urged local leaders and the entire communities to avoid trouble spots, especially river banks that can easily burst.

She urged leaders to mobilise communities in these areas to comply with safety precautions such as temporally relocating to relatively safer places to prevent disasters.

Worse ahead, ACRC warns

At the just-concluded Africa Climate Risks Conference, the first of its kind in Africa, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia October 7-9 and attended by New Vision, climate research experts warned that Africa was heading for increased rains in the future.

Dr. Alex Nimusiima, the Coordinator of the Meteorological Unit, Makerere University, who presented a paper on rainfall extremes in Uganda and how communities should position themselves in the increasing face of risks, warned that Uganda was headed for rainfall extremes.

“If government doesn’t invest more resources in climate issues, the future is not good,” he predicted.

Concurring with Dr. Nimusiima, Elizabeth Kendon of the Meteorological Office in the United Kingdom, concluded that future changes in both wet and dry extremes in Africa may be more severe than previously considered.  

Christopher Taylor, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK, warned of worsening impacts of extreme rain events and flooding, attributing rain events to global warming.

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