115 perish as flooding hits Rwanda
May 3, 2023 10:39 PM
At least 115 people have died as floods and mudslides swept through northern and western Rwanda after torrential rains, the state-run broadcaster said Wednesday, warning that the toll could rise.
"The rain that fell last night caused disaster in the Northern and Western Provinces," the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) said on its website.
"Currently, the provisional figures published by the administration of these provinces say that 115 people have been declared dead."
Images on RBA's Twitter account showed houses engulfed in rivers of mud, roads cut off by landslides and flooded fields.
The broadcaster said the floodwaters were still rising, "causing a threat to more lives."
Most of the deaths occurred in Western Province which borders Lake Kivu, it said, adding that the floodwaters had swept away homes and infrastructure and led to road closures.
"I was at home with my children but we escaped successfully before it collapsed," said Jane Munyemana, a resident in the town of Rubavu in Western Province.
"We plan to remove the floodwaters and sleep in it tonight but we are worried that it may rain again and destroy whatever is remaining," she told AFP.
Other parts of East Africa have been battered by rains and flooding, including Uganda where six people have been reported dead.
"Relief efforts began immediately, including helping to bury victims of the disaster and providing supplies to those whose homes were destroyed," Rwanda's minister in charge of emergency management, Marie Solange Kayisire, told RBA.
She called on local residents to increase patrols, especially at night, so people could be moved to safer ground when it rains heavily.
"When the floods started, there were massive landslides which caused trees to fall and bury the road down here. Our plantations were also washed away. We have a big problem down here," one woman in Northern Province told RBA.
In neighbouring Uganda, six people died in the west of the country when landslides struck their homes after days of torrential rain, according to the local Red Cross.
It said five of the dead belonged to the same family and were from a single village.
Images shared by the Red Cross showed local farmers perched on steeply terraced hillsides digging through the fresh mudslide and homes buried up to their rooftops in mud.
East Africa often suffers from flooding and landslides during the rainy seasons, although several countries in the Horn of Africa have been in the grip of the worst drought in decades.
Experts say extreme weather events are happening with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change -- and Africa, which contributes the least to global warming, is bearing the brunt.
Last month, at least 14 people died after heavy rains triggered floods and landslides in southern Ethiopia, regional police said. Hundreds of head of livestock perished and scores of houses were also damaged.
In May 2020, at least 65 people died in Rwanda as heavy rains pounded the region, while at least 194 deaths were reported in Kenya.
At the end of 2019, at least 265 people died and tens of thousands were displaced during two months of relentless rainfall.
The extreme downpours affected close to two million people and washed away tens of thousands of livestock in Kenya, Somalia, Burundi, Tanzania, South Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti and Ethiopia.