8 January 2020
Bududa, Uganda: Planet Labs images of the landslides in December that killed more than 50 people
On 3 December 2019 heavy rainfall triggered a number of landslides in the Bududa area of Uganda. In my dataset I have recorded 53 fatalities from these events, although there is some uncertainty (the Red Cross for example has recorded 51 deaths). It appears that around 50 houses were destroyed and around 1,000 people were directly impacted. This area of Uganda is one of the most landslide-affected parts of Africa – I have reported multiple fatalities in this region on several previous occasions, including in 2011, 2012, and 2018.
The Red Cross reports that the villages affected by the landslides in December were Shikhururwe, Namasa, Naposhi and Namwau in Bushika Sub County and Bushibekye in Bunabutiti Sub County. I have taken a look at the Planet Labs imagery for this area before and after the landslides. The landslides are clearly visible.
There is a good image of the area on 17 November 2019, which shows the hilly, mostly deforested landscape with large numbers of houses scattered across the slopes. No very recent landslides are evident:-
This is the same area on 15 December 2019, in the aftermath of the landslides:-
Multiple landslides are evident on this images. There is a cluster of slides in the northeast, on forested slopes, and multiple smaller slides in the centre of the image, some of which appear to have become channelised debris flows with a long runout. The most important landslides appear to be the two in the lower portion of the image, left of centre, on a conical hill. The image below is from 1st January 2020 – I include it here as it provides more detail of the landslides:-
The large slide in the south west of the image appears to be the most significant in human terms. I can count at least 15 houses that have been destroyed by this landslide; it is likely that there were substantial numbers of fatalities at this site.
Planet Team (2020). Planet Application Program Interface: In Space for Life on Earth. San Francisco, CA. https://www.planet.com/