By ROBERT WANYONYI IN BUDUDA, EASTERN UGANDA
Heavy rains continued to pound Bududa area, the scene of Monday’s landslide in Uganda that left over 30 people dead with hundreds still missing.
The rains caused the Ugandan government to call off rescue operations at the site where three villages initially stood with a further announcement from the Government that close to 400,000 people are likely to be displaced in the area due to the looming danger of more landslides.
The poor weather has caused major roads leading to the disaster area impassable with majority of them being completely cut off, making the area inaccessible by vehicles.
Uganda’s Minister responsible for relief and disaster preparedness Stephen Malinga warned of further loss of lives and damage to property should the local residents continue to resist government efforts to have them relocated elsewhere.
“This is a rich area for agricultural practices and that’s why it has always been very difficult whenever the government comes up with a program to relocate the residents. We only managed to move a few people to Kiriandongo settlement scheme last year but majority were still yearning to come back when the latest tragedy occurred,” Malinga told reporters.
The fertile area, along the slopes of Mount Elgon is mostly occupied by smallholder farmers who grow the bulk of Uganda’s cash crops like coffee, tea, cotton and cereals.
Malinga said following Monday disaster, the government is more determined to clear the area of any more human settlement adding that residents who resist the move will this time round be evicted by force.
“Though we admit that the government gets a lot of revenue from farm produce grown in this region, we are not going to sit back and entertain any more loss of lives as a result of landslides,” reiterated the minister.
But even as the government called off the operation saying that there was no hope of finding any survivors, family members and kin of those feared to have perished in the landslide continued digging at the scene using all manner of equipment with the hope of accessing their loved ones, either dead or alive.
“Our government officers are very faint-hearted. We still believe that with more efforts, we may be able to save lives but they have now left us alone. We will carry on our own rescue operation because, till we find our relatives dead, our belief is that they might still be alive under this mount of earth,” said a determined Fred Wabola as he led five other members of his family in digging the muddy earth.
The residents also took issue with sentiments by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who toured the area on Monday evening and said the locals were responsible for the tragedy since they had defied government efforts to relocate.