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Page last updated at 18:30 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

Uganda mudslide prompts evacuation of thousands

Search for bodies in Bududa 03.03.10
Many bodies may never be recovered, officials say

Thousands of people are being evacuated from hillsides in Uganda where a mudslide is believed to have killed more 350 people.

The BBC's Joshua Mmali in Kampala says about 4,000 people are being removed from their homes on the slopes of Mount Elgon as heavy rains continue.

Three villages in the eastern district of Bududa were buried in a cascade of rocks and mud earlier this week.

Only about 90 bodies have been recovered so far.

The dead include about 60 schoolchildren who had taken shelter in a health centre.

Entire families have been wiped out, our correspondent says.

As the evacuation operation began, Bududa district chairman Wilson Watira told AFP news agency that in the "longer term" up to 35,000 people might need to move.

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Authorities have blamed the disaster on local people cutting down trees on the hillsides to cultivate crops.

Uganda's minister for disaster preparedness, Musa Ecweru, told the BBC that the government wanted to move people away from areas at risk from mudslides.

"These people must be located to areas which are safe, and we must find land and re-locate them," he said.

"But there is a big problem about separating people from areas that they have traditionally known for ages."

He said essential supplies were being distributed to those made homeless by the mudslide.

The Ugandan Red Cross says it is distributing food and other aid to some 1,500 households.

Teams of volunteers and soldiers are still trying to recover bodies under as much as 5m (16ft) of mud.

The operation has been slowed down because the terrain is too steep for heavy machinery and rescuers are having to use hand-held tools.



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Country profile: Uganda
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