Uganda: West Nile Cut Off As River Nile Floods

4 December 2019

Passengers traveling to West Nile districts, parts of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are stranded at Pakwach Bridge. They have now been told to use alternative routes after River Nile burst its banks, cutting off the bridge.

Pakwach Bridge is the main gateway to West Nile sub-region and beyond, with alternative routes being through Adjumani using a ferry and Wanseko in Buliisa District also via a ferry. A small volume of passengers pass through Obongi also using ferry from Adjumani.

West Nile has about ten bus companies plying the route daily with each making on average about 10 trips every day.

Each bus has a capacity of about 66 passengers. The region is also a gateway to Northeastern DRC, South Sudan, and Central African Republic with hundreds of trailers transiting through the region to various destinations.

Vehicles from Kampala and other places traveling to West Nile yesterday formed over two kilometres of queues, while across the bridge, Pakwach town has over a thousand travelers stranded in the town and the surrounding villages.

Ms Jane Watango, a journalist at Pakwach Town, said two trailers loaded with cement travelling from Kampala were swept off by the strong waters of the river, with the drivers suspected to have drowned.

"Here the situation is tense. Across the bridge, vehicles have lined up for more than two kilometres and here in Pakwach town, the whole town is flooded with stranded passengers who have nowhere to go. Two trailers loaded with cement tried to cross but were swept away by the river currents and we have not got the identities of the drivers and other occupants," Watango said.

Godwin Azale, and employee of Caritas Arua who had been for a retreat at Murchison Falls National Park, said they are going to spend the night in Gulu town and wait until the water level subsides.

"We cannot proceed right now because the volume of the water is too high. We are going back to Gulu and maybe we shall try to check tomorrow."

Mr John Opio, who was also heading to Arua, said it's a terrible situation.

Mr Opio blames the flooding on an ongoing construction of road through Murchison Falls National Park, which he says has disorganized the flow of the river towards the park.

"There is a road which is under construction which connects Murchison Falls and joins the bridge. The road has blocked the water that should have gone to the park and now the water is flooding the road," he said.

"People coming from Arua can't connect to this side and those from this side of the bridge can't connect to Arua so we are going to sleep here," Opio added.

Emergency team set

Uganda National Roads Authority has issued a travel advisory to all those going to West Nile and those from West Nile wishing to cross the bridge to use alternative routes. Mr Mark Ssali, the corporate affairs manager at UNRA, said currently the situation is bad and travelers are not allowed to cross the bridge.

"We are aware of the situation. We have already dispatched our emergency team with machines to the area. They will go and wait for the water levels to drop then do an emergency repairs on the damaged sections," he said.

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