Almost a week after the river Nyamwamba burst its banks and flooded most of Kasese, the recovery process is now underway, with the police and army trying to evacuate those who are still stranded.
According to Kasese’s fire officer, Amos Tukamuhabwa, the death toll yesterday stood at 10. Four people drowned in Kilembe, while other bodies were found downstream in Bulembya.
“We suspect that some other bodies may be buried in the rubble; so, we are looking out for them, but for now we are concentrating on recovery,” Tukamuhabwa said.
He explained that he had also heard of other deaths of victims in hospitals after they sustained injuries in the floods, although he could not divulge how many. Tukamuhabwa added that the police and army were also involved in a massive cleanup of Kilembe hospital.
“We are cleaning the hospital of silt, rocks and mud that had settled there [after the flood] and we hope that we can reopen the outpatients ward before the end of the week,” he said.
Tukamuhabwa indicated that authorities there had feared that with over 1,800 people displaced, they would have to set up camps for the internally displaced. Remarkably, Kasese residents have taken in most of the victims.
However, over the weekend, Kasese Mayor Godfrey Kabyanga toured flood-prone areas and urged those still staying there to leave immediately. He urged all those vacating their homes to gather in two key areas, Spire-1 Boma and Kasese primary school, where the Red Cross and other volunteers were distributing assistance.
Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere Iremangoma visited Kilembe and Kasese on Friday, commiserating with those who had been affected by the floods. Iremangoma toured Kilembe mines premises and Kanyaruboga accompanied by Queen Agnes Ithungu. They were guided through the water-logged Kyanjuki road by Kasese Mayor Godfrey Kabyanga and a number of kingdom ministers.
Addressing the public at Bulembia primary school, the Iremangoma regretted the disaster and appealed to the central government to support the victims. He equated this disaster to an earlier one in 1965 although the death toll was over 100 then. He warned against corruption and mischief during the recovery process. On Monday, the Uganda National Roads Authority deployed a team to repair all the broken bridges and reinforce those that were still standing.
Indeed, several bulldozers and earth-moving equipment are in the area, engaged in road works. According to Works Minister John Byabagambi, this work would last two months.
The road connecting Kasese to Fort Portal has also been reopened after the waters receded at Nyakasanga. However, with more rains on Monday, River Mubuku also burst its banks, increasing the tension in the area.
Access to safe water is a big problem. With some of the flood water going through the mine, the Nyamwamba river water is reportedly unsafe for drinking; so the police have deployed their fire hydrant trucks to supply water to Kasese residents.
“It is a tough task, as we have to keep collecting this water from Hima Cement, some 25km away and bring it to Kasese for the residents to use,” Tukamuhabwa said.
The minister of state for Disaster Preparedness, Musa Ecweru, also visited Kasese on Friday and warned of a possible cholera outbreak in some parts of district due to the floods.
The minster, who was shocked at the damage in Bulembia division and Karusandara sub-county, assured the locals that the government would ensure everybody got relief and also called on humanitarian non government organizations to support the relief effort.
Later in the day the District Disaster Management committee explained that most of the victims had lost substantial property. District Vice Chairperson Tadeo Muhindo told a press conference at Kasese municipal hall that over thirty households had been displaced in Karusandara, and most of these had lost their properties, crops and domestic animals like cows and goats, among others.