The death toll resulting from the flooding in the Elgon sub-region has increased to 29, the ministry of Relief, Disaster and Preparedness, and Refugees has revealed.
The disaster followed heavy rains that pounded Bugisu and Sebei regions on July 30, 2022, forcing several rivers to burst their banks leading to flooding and landslides in Mbale, Manafwa, Bulambuli, and Kapchorwa districts.
Hillary Onek, the Disaster Preparedness minister, said that the number of fatalities has risen to 29 from the 23 that were previously recorded in Mbale. He says 3 new cases were from Kapchorwa and Sironko districts respectively.
According to the minister, up to 800 households are affected by this calamity including an industrial park, 3 health center IIIs, 14 bridges, 7 educational institutions, several hotels, and recreational facilities as well as agricultural installations.
Though this area is prone to landslides and flooding because of its natural terrain, this disaster is unique in that it has heavily affected the Mbale City divisions, which hasn’t been the case in the past. To this, the minister says that the continued environmental degradation in the area has led to this catastrophe. He cited the example of an industrial park that was built in a swamp, which used to serve as a water passage.
"Industries are being built in swamps, well maybe we want to save the dry land for people to cultivate and live in. But really am sorry for the Chinese because they are now swallowed by water. Am not in charge of industries, neither am I in charge of lands but what I know along the way in Luwero there, I find swampy areas where now industries have been built. Why do they build down where the water is? You find people choose swamps to build industries. Is it because the land is cheaper or because there is no body because even now water comes and swallows them. But the tendency of building industries in swamps worries me," said Onek.
In Mbale city, over 250 acres of Bugema and Namatala swamps were turned into an industrial park, and along with Nasenyi, Kamonkholi, Musoto Masanda Doho, Busamaga Marare and Maluku wards.
He also says that residents have also continued to settle on mountain slopes where they also carry out agricultural activities, which have destabilized the area making it vulnerable when the area receives heavy rains. To eliminate this, Onek says that the cabinet had adopted a strategy that will see many people evacuate from swamps and other areas which are regarded as environmentally protected areas;
At the moment, the government in collaboration with partners like the Uganda Red Cross Society is offering relief, taking care of emergencies as well as searching, rescuing, and retrieving bodies.
However, the minister says that in the midterm, the government will be fixing the roads in the area, allowing economic activities to resume, and delivering medical supplies but the long-term plan is to relocate people from mountain slopes and river banks to safer places.