BUDUDA – The rescue crews led by the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces, Police, OPM, Red Cross and local people today entered the sixth day in search of victims of the devastating landslide that hit Bukalasi in Bududa with many of them losing hope of finding any survivors.
The team armed with sticks, hoes, spades searched the mud-ravaged villages of Tsume and Naposhi some still hoping to find survivors while others facing the daunting task of finding the bodies buried under the mudslides.
It is seven days now ever since the landslides buried villages in Bukalasi sub-county in Bududa and killed about 70 people and the rescuers have only managed to retrieve only about 43 bodies according to the Bududa LCV chairman Mr Wilson Watira who has pitch camped at the place.
“Although we have not yet recovered anybody for the last two days, we have for the last six days only managed to retrieve 43 bodies and give them a decent burial. I know that there are more still trapped down in the houses after boulders sent down by landslides covered them but our hopes of recovering them are slim,” said Mr Watira.
He added that they required big tractors to dig through the boulders and the heavy mud carried from Mt Elgon national park to retrieve the bodies from down,” said Mr Watira.
He explained that many of the bodies seem to be covered with heavy stones and are deep underground where the hoes, pangas, sticks, spades and the small tractor provided by government cannot reach beside there is a horrid stench in the place that is making it difficult for the search teams to continue with the search work.
“I think for now there is a need for government to declare the place a mass grave for all those who have perished,” said Mr Watira.
Mr Martin Owor, the commissioner disaster management at Office of the Prime Minister [OPM] while appearing on NBS October 18 said Tsume river had gone low and that hopes of finding more bodies had become slim.
He revealed that a disaster management momentarily upgraded at the bodies recovered to 43 as the official figure of the bodies recovered after president Museveni visited the area.
“The exact figure of the bodies recovered is 43 and this should be the official figure for now but I the know the number could grow anytime but for now we are preparing a working plan to resettle the people displaced,” said Mr Owor.
He revealed that hopes of retrieving anybody alive had fade and that recovery of more bodies is becoming harder as the tools being used cannot dig deeper to get the people out of the houses they were in.
According to Mr Owor Tsume river burst its banks at about 2:30 pm local time following a heavy downpour “and a landslide up the mountain” and It rolled big boulders through a village in Bukalasi sub-county, killing several people and burying houses and domestic animals.
The Uganda Red Cross Society spokesperson, Ms. Irene Nakasiita, said detailed disaster loss and damage report will be issued after the ongoing assessment adding that for now only 43 bodies have been recovered.
When the landslide hit the area last week, the local people were using hoes, spades, pickaxes and in some cases sticks and bare hands to lift crash stones and scoop mounds of heavy mud to get the victims out from the ground.
Apparently the Naposhi and Tsume, the buried villages look from a distance like a freshly graded garden ready for planting but one can only notice there was a landslide from the horrid stench of the bodies that have started decomposing and heavy stones swept down from Mt Elgon.
Although the number of bodies is expected to rise, the local people have put the number of those covered with the mudslides to about 100 people who were settlers of Naposhi and Tsume villages.