and Paul Watala
A deadly landslide hit Bulambuli district in the Mt. Elgon region in Bugisu, killing over 40 people yesterday.
The victims were buried as they slept in their houses in Sisiyi and Buluganya sub- counties in the newly-created Bulambuli district.
A year ago, a landslide hit the neighbouring Bududa district killing over 100 people.
By press time, 36 bodies had been retrieved from the debris in the two sub-counties.
Eight bodies were recovered in Buluganya, while 28 were recovered in Sisiyi sub-county. Three people died in Bulambuli health centre.
According to residents, rains pounded the district from Sunday starting at around 12:00pm, triggering the landslides at about 1:00am.
A separate landslide occurred in Chemanganga parish in Sipi sub-county in the neighbouring Kapchorwa district.
According to the district information officer, Doreen Kapsulei, a 12-year-old pupil identified as Fred Wozei was killed. The boy was grazing cattle when the landslide occurred. He was buried together with the animals.
The Bulambuli landslides buried seven villages, including Mabono, Kigewa, Lunkungu, Bamwidyeki, Kamwenyi and Kimuli all in Sisiyi sub-county. Gombe and Nalusato villages in Buluganya sub-county were also buried.
The landslides cut off a large chunk of land on the road at Kimuli trading centre in Gibuzale village, Mabono parish, cutting off the road that runs from Bulambuli town up to the hills.
Buginyanya, Masira, Bulago, Lusha, Bumasobo and Bugibole sub-counties located on the mountain were cut off.
The cut off road is a shortcut to Kapchorwa from Bulambuli Sisiyi sub-county.
The slides buried Budyeke nursery school, Mabono PAG church, shops and the Uganda national farmersâ€™ association project that had been dealing in organic farming and coffee.
Two drug shops and heifer international project Uganda offices were also buried.
An orphanage belonging to Luis Masiga, 74, a resident of Mabono village, was buried together with the proprietor.
The orphanage has been housing over 50 children, but when the landslide happened, they had gone home.
Masiga was a former LC3 chairperson for Sisiyi sub-county from 1986 to 1992 and the area National Resistance Movement chairperson.
The landslides also destroyed crops that included coffee, bananas, maize, beans.
Water sources have also been destroyed, making it hard for people around the mountains to access clean water.
At the scene, relatives wept aloud as bodies were retrieved. Mourners and residents swarmed the police pick-up truck where the bodies were loaded.
Milton Nabukisa - a father who lost two children in the tragedy, Gasper Masiga, 15, and Jarius Masiga, 14 - said he never expected the tragedy.
â€œThe boys were in Mama Kevin Comprehensive school in Tororo, but their mother, Irene Namaleya, requested them to go to the village for holidays. Thatâ€™s the last I heard from them,â€ he said.
â€œThere was another adopted child called Kwaga in the house. I have heard rumours that my wife is alive, but I have not seen her. Itâ€™s terrible. They are gone. How I wish they had stayed with me,â€ Nabukisa lamented.
Akusa Wanyira, 47, the Namisuni sub-county woman secretary, said the upper villages were seated on time bomb. She appealed to the government to relocate the residents as soon as possible.
Wanyria added that the survivors do not have food.
She urged non-governmental organisations to provide the residents with food, shelter and medicine, adding that people are at risk of contracting diseases like cholera.
Agnes Mukoya, the focal person for Red Cross Sironko branch, said the bodies that were recovered were handed over to the Police, while those retrieved while still alive were taken to Mbale Hospital.
She added that the injured included Paul Kajeke, 20 and Irene Namaleya, 38.
â€œThe team of Red cross and villagers dug and found the two people covered by the soils. We suspect that several others are still in the soils,â€ Mukoya said. She said they were still assessing the number of people and households that had been affected.
Mukoya said hanging boulders on the steep hill posed a threat to the residents and those retrieving the bodies.
â€œAt around 1:00pm, more boulders broke off and rolled down, forcing the people who were digging to recover more bodies to abandon the scene.â€
Martin Nangoli, the director of Wake up ministries, a local civil society organisation, gave some of the displaced persons body bags for burial, blankets and coffins. The organisation provided 500kg of maize flour and 200kg of beans to the residents.
Landslide death toll now at 40