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Hundreds missing in Uganda mudslide

03 marca, 2010

Rescuers clawed through mud in driving rain Wednesday in a desperate bid to find survivors from a huge landslide feared to have killed hundreds in villages in eastern Uganda.

At least 80 bodies have already been found on the slopes of Mount Elgon and at least 300 people are missing in the villages.

More torrential rain fell as rescuers dug through the mud with spades and and simple tools as mechanical diggers could not get up the slopes. Army helicopters flew up medical supplies to treat the injured.

Regional army spokesman Captain Henry Obbo said the steep terrain was making recovery efforts difficult.

"We are having trouble because of the very big rubble. The terrain is really so, so unfriendly," he told AFP."It is the local people and us (the army). We are trying all that we can."

After days of heavy rain, the mudslide engulfed the villages near the Uganda-Kenya border late Monday.

Olyamboka Sam was praying when the disaster struck.

"I was in the church when I saw the landslide coming carrying stones and trees. Everyone was running from the church," said Sam, who was being treated for a fractured arm at a hospital in Bududa, the nearest town.

The 24-year-old man told how he saw two women, two children and a man carried away to their deaths. Other survivors said the mudslide moved so fast that victims had no chance to escape.

Teams from UN agencies were heading for the stricken villages on Mount Elgon with food and other relief supplies.

The Uganda Red Cross said 80 bodies had been recovered that at least 300 people were missing after the wall of mud came down the hills near Mount Elgon.

"The situation is really very terrible," said Bududa district Vice Chairman Geofrey Natubu "People fear there are actually 300 who have died."

"It is raining quite heavily right now, so the place is becoming impossible to reach," he added.

Doctors and paramedics at Bududa hospital struggled to cope with the numbers of injured survivors.

Namasa Elina, 18 said she believed 11 members of her family were engulfed by the racing heaps of earth.

"I was in my house and I heard a noise. When I looked out I saw the mud was all around us. I shouted out \'we are dying, we are dying\'."

"All of the people I was with, my sisters in law, perished, except me and my own baby," Elina said.

"The people came and they were so energetic that they managed to get me out. I was under the mud and I could hear them digging. I shouted to them, \'not over there, over here!\' and they could hear me," she added.

Olyamboka Sam said that survivors now just want to leave the region. "People want to migrate from the village now. Hundreds were in the village. Only some escaped to stay with their relatives," he said.

President Yoweri Museveni visited survivors and the scene of the disaster on Wednesday.

Tonnes of relief aid and a helicopter carrying rescuers have been dispatched to the region, Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Tarsis Kabwegyere said Tuesday.

Widespread flooding has affected several other villages in the region near Mount Elgon, which straddles the Uganda-Kenya border, the Red Cross said.

Local markets were destroyed, schools were forced to close and roads were blocked by the heaps of earth that came down the hillsides, Ugandan Red Cross Secretary General Michael Nataka told AFP.

The east Africa country is experiencing unusually heavy downpours in the annual rainy season, which Kabwegyere said were due to El Nino weather pattern.