10 May 2018

Karongi: 18 people killed in a major landslide in Rwanda

Posted by Dave Petley

Karongi: 18 people killed in a major landslide in Rwanda

On 6th May a major rainfall triggered landslide struck a village, Bucyurabuhoro, in the Rwankuba Sector of Karongi District in western Rwanda.  The landslide occurred in the evening, killing 18 people and leaving at least 12 others injured.  The Rwanda Red Cross tweeted this image of the landslide:-


The major landslide at Rwankuba in western Rwanda on 6th May 2018. Image tweeted by the Rwanda Red Cross.


The online newspaper KT Press has a decent report about the landslide, which also notes that a further three people were killed by the failure of a retaining wall in Giticyinyoni in Nyarugenge district.  The same newspaper also has an account of both the landslide itself and the aftermath, describing it as follows:

The evening of May 6 was normal and peaceful. Francois Nzabamwita, a resident of Bucyurabuhoro Village, Rwankuba Sector in Karongi District (Western Rwanda) left home to watch a football game at a bar in the neighbouring village. A heavy downpour followed till the end of the game.  On realizing the rain wouldn’t stop, Nzabamwita decided to brave it. But a few meters to his home, a huge force swept him away – along with his house and everything in its path. A large section of the steep mountain had given way.  Nzabamwita survived the ordeal but the horror is still fresh on his mind.  “Fortunately, I managed to rescue a woman with a baby,” he said as hundreds of mourners gathered to bury the dead.  For the entire night, locals struggled to find survivors. Nzabamwita says he witnessed an elderly man being pulled out of tons of mixture of mud, rocks and wood.

The landslide itself appear to have been caused by a series of shallow regolith failures on the steep back wall.  This looks like a classic static liquefaction event in which the debris fluidises to form a highly mobile flow – in essence a much larger version of the events shown in the Papamoa landslide video from New Zealand.