Uganda Halts Search for Landslide Survivors

Posted June 26th, 2012 at 5:15 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Although scores of people remain missing, Ugandan authorities have called off a search for survivors from a landslide that struck the eastern Mount Elgon area Monday, killing at least 18 people.

Uganda's minister for disaster relief, Stephen Malinga, said there is “no hope of finding any more survivors.”

He said workers, joined by the Ugandan army, are now focused on recovering bodies and providing assistance for more than 200 people displaced by the disaster.

The landslides in the mountainous area, which is particularly prone to such disasters, were triggered by days of heavy rain. A similar disaster killed around 365 people in 2010.

The government warned more areas may be affected if the rains continue.

Malinga said residents had seen cracks in the ground and heard loud sounds of the earth moving Sunday night, but did not report the warning signs to authorities.

Issa Aliga, a reporter with the Uganda Daily Monitor, told VOA that villagers resisted government efforts to relocate them after the 2010 event.

“They say that they have been staying in this area for a long time and they refused to go by the government's idea because the people here are cultivators and they grow coffee. But in the areas where the government wanted to relocate them is a cattle area where people practice pasturing.”

Doctor Mary Goretti Kitutu, with the environment management agency, said the clay-rich soil in Mount Elgon area retains water after the rains, creating ideal conditions for landslides.

She said overpopulation has also contributed to land degradation, as residents clear the hillside forests for firewood and farming. Kitutu added that “without those complex root systems to hold the earth in place landslides are inevitable.”