30 August 2011
Whilst attention has been focused on the effects of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Nanmadol (which is currently making landfall in China), a substantial landslide disaster in Uganda yesterday has been scarcely reported. Heavy rainfall affected the slopes on Mount Elgon, a large volcano located on the border between Kenya and Uganda. This is an area that was heavily affected by landslides on 1st March last year, resulting in 358 fatalities (see a description of this event, with images, here). There is some confusion about the magnitude of loss of life in the most recent event. The Ugandan newspaper the Daily Monitor reports that 43 people may have been killed in two landslides, although other estimates in the same article suggest lower totals. New Vision reports that 36 bodies have been recovered to date.
Meanwhile, Xinhua has an illustrated account that indicates that the total may exceed 50 people. The main location of the landslides appears to be Sisiyi and Buluganya sub- counties in eastern Bulambuli District. Unfortunately, further heavy rainfall is forecast in the area.
The causes of this sequence of landslides are not entirely clear, but deforestation and rapid population growth in an area of fragile volcanic soils may well be significant factors.