Three villages near Mount Elgon were covered by the landslides on Monday June 26.
Rescue workers in Uganda yesterday June 26 ended the search for the dead, concentrating on looking after the injured and displaced. An estimated 450 people are believed to have been buried in massive landslides on Monday June 25 in Bududa District in the eastern part of the country near Mount Elgon. The area was said to have experienced heavy rain for a number of days before Monday's disaster struck.
Reports said only about 18 bodies had been recovered. David Wakikona, a legislator from the region said most people were likely indoors when huge blocks of mud and rocks started to roll down hills, toppling homes, killing livestock and burying people alive. According to him, at least 300 people lived in the three affected villages.
A survivor, Rachael Namwono told Uganda's Monitor newspaper that the ground quaked at 2 pm local time, followed by heavy rumbling of soil and stones which covered their home in the mountainous district. Officials from Bududa confirmed that the final death toll would likely be in hundreds. The Disaster Preparedness Minister, Stephen Mallinga said he also expected the death toll to rise as mud is removed from the affected villages, adding that moving the mud had so far proved difficult.
Minister Mallinga said many residents were refusing to move to safer locations as villages near Mount Elgon have fertile land and fewer cases of malaria. He told the BBC that his government will eventually pass a law to relocate people from the top and sides of the mountain. Even those who were relocated to a camp for refugees after the 2010 landslides secretly returned to Bududa, Mallinga explained.
A Red Cross official, Michael Nataka told Reuters news agency that the total number at risk in the buried areas was 448. He said the Mount Elgon area has so many places with cracks and that each time there is prolonged rainfall, water seeps into the cracks, eventually causing landslides.
Landslides are a common occurrence in the hilly parts of eastern Uganda. They have been especially lethal over the years in villages where the land is denuded of vegetation cover. Massive landslides in Bududa in 2010 killed about 100 people, destroying everything from the village market to a church.