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Page last updated at 06:03 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

Red Cross appeals for aid after Uganda landslide

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Heavy rains caused the landslide in Bududa district, Uganda

Uganda's Red Cross has launched an appeal to help survivors of mudslides which swept away three villages near the eastern town of Bududa.

More than 80 bodies have been recovered from the mud which engulfed villages on the slopes of Mount Elgon.

At least 250 people are still missing. The Red Cross says it needs shelters, blankets and psychological support.

In one village, eyewitnesses said schoolchildren took shelter in a health centre later engulfed by the mud.

Beatrice Nabuduwa's 12-year-old daughter was among those feared dead.

"I was shocked to learn that the whole village was under mud," she told the Associated Press. "I have failed to find her or her body."

President critical

In the village of Nametsi, rescuers struggled to search through a wall of mud some 16ft (5m) high, which had buried most structures.

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Uganda's President, Yoweri Museveni, visited the area on Wednesday.

Arriving by helicopter, he said the mudslide was partly due to the loss of tree cover.

He criticised local residents for settling on a floodplain, saying the disaster could be partially blamed on local farmers who had stripped the land of vegetation which would have protected it from heavy rainfall.

Army helicopters have begun evacuating residents from affected villages.

One resident, Olyamboka Sam, said survivors were desperate to leave: "People want to migrate from the village now. Hundreds were in the village. Only some escaped to stay with their relatives," he told AFP news agency.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by the area's remoteness as officials cannot get the heavy digging equipment needed to the area.

"The exercise is slow because we are using hoes to dig the dead bodies out of the thick mud," said Red Cross official Kevin Nabutuwa.

"We have found some cows, and some remains of houses, but we have not found a body since morning," he added.

The landslides were triggered by several days of unusually heavy rain.

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

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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