3 Min Read
* Seven hours of heavy rain caused landslide
* Panicked villagers search for survivors
* MP says no medical help available
(Updates death toll, details)
By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA, March 2 (Reuters) - A landslide in eastern Uganda has killed at least 80 people and villagers are digging with bare hands and simple tools in the hope of finding survivors, a government minister and Ugandan media said on Tuesday.
Ugandan media said the landslide engulfed a village in the eastern Bududa district on the foothills of Mt Elgon on Monday night after a seven-hour downpour.
"The latest reports I have indicate 80 bodies have been pulled out," Tarsis Kabwegyere, Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, told Reuters.
The local NTV channel showed mud and wattle houses flattened by viscous earth and wailing villagers piling bodies on a grassy compound.
"About 300 people are feared buried by the landslide and the landslides are expected to continue as the rains intensify in the region," he told Reuters earlier on Tuesday.
Kabwegyere said a government response team was on the ground with food and the Red Cross had sent doctors. Police and volunteers were also helping in the rescue.
Parts of Uganda and neighbouring Kenya have had sustained rain for much of the past two months, which is usually a dry period between rainy seasons.
Local MP David Wakikoona told Reuters villagers had told him about 100 to 150 people were at a trading centre when huge rocks slid down the hillsides, transported by mud. Only eight people were known to have survived so far, he said.
"So in all likelihood the death toll will be more than a 100," he said.
The legislator said residents were using shovels, hoes and their bare hands to dig through mounds of earth to retrieve buried neighbours.
They periodically scrambled to safer ground, fearing more mudslides, when rumbling was heard from the top of the hills.
"There's no medical personnel whatsoever on the ground and we have already told the government," he said.
Kabwegyere told parliament earlier on Tuesday mudslides were feared in five other districts currently experiencing deluges. Floods are already plaguing large areas.
In the eastern Bududa landslide, a health centre was buried along with a nurse and three support staff, he told parliament.
He said three villages with more than 3,000 residents were badly hit. The hamlets cling to isolated mountainsides with no proper road access, making rescue efforts difficult.
Nearly 24 hours after the tragedy, earth movers and other equipment that could bolster rescue efforts were unable to reach the area, he said. (Writing by David Clarke and Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; editing by Andrew Roche)