Uganda Halts Search for Landslide Survivors

Posted June 26th, 2012 at 9:55 am (UTC-5)
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Ugandan authorities have called off a search for survivors from a landslide that killed at least 18 people in the eastern Mount Elgon area.

Although scores of people remained missing on Tuesday, Uganda's disaster relief minister said there was “no hope of finding any more survivors.”

Instead emergency teams are working to recover bodies and help more than 200 people displaced in the Bududa District, according to minister Stephen Malinga.

Days of heavy rainfall triggered a series of landslides in the mountainous area on Monday.

Local teacher Ibrahim Hussain said children described a loud sound just before trees and earth began tumbling down.

“They saw very big cracks on the ground then (unintelligible) within the shortest time we saw smoke coming up and then the land was sliding down. We saw huge trees turning up and down just breaking and there was a lot of dust.”

Issa Aliga, a reporter with the Uganda Daily Monitor, told VOA that villagers resisted government efforts to relocate them last year after a similar 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.”

Government officials say the soil in the Mount Elgon area is rich with clay and retains water after heavy rains, making it prone to landslides.

Doctor Mary Goretti Kitutu, with the environment management agency, said the terrain has also been weakened because residents clear the hillsides to farm and obtain firewood.