Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Hundreds feared dead after Uganda landslides


Heavy rains caused the landslide in Bududa district, Uganda

More than 300 people are feared dead after heavy rain caused a series of landslides in the mountainous eastern region of Bududa in Uganda.

A trading centre in a village was flattened, leaving shops and houses buried under the mud, officials said.

Rescuers are digging in the mud with hand-held tools as mechanical diggers cannot reach the affected villages.

President Yoweri Museveni visited the affected area, and criticised residents for settling on a floodplain.

The president also said the disaster could be partially blamed on local farmers for stripping the land of thick plant life.

Some 86 deaths have been confirmed, with local officials saying at least 250 people remain missing.

'Nothing left'

The BBC's Joshua Mmali, in Bududa region, says many people are living in fear, taking shelter in a school and a shopping centre.

He says residents are placing their faith in the government to help them out.

I only survived because my head was above the mud
James Kasawi

Many of the survivors in the landslide-hit area are still unaware of the fate of their loved ones.

Others are beginning the grieving process.

"This used to be our home. My mother died here, my brother, the children and everybody," said one villager, Seela Wazemba.

"Nothing is now left in my life."

One survivor said he was at a church service when the landslide hit.

"All of a sudden the church collapsed," James Kasawi told the Associated Press from a hospital in Bududa.

"Mud covered the whole place. Five people seated next to me died. I only survived because my head was above the mud."

The landslides have damaged roads and made it almost impossible to get the kind of earth-moving equipment that rescuers need into the site of the disaster.

The Red Cross has asked the government to send army engineers to help clear the debris.

But at least a month more of heavy rain is forecast, so analysts say the authorities are expecting things to get worse before they get better.

The region, about 275km (170 miles) north-east of the capital Kampala, often suffers from landslides but this is an unusually high death toll.

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