Catastrophic floods in Rwanda left at least 127 dead

Several people gather next to a collapsed building after the floods (AP Photo/Rachid Bugirinfura) (Rachid Bugirinfura/)

At least 127 people died from the floods and avalanches that have devastated various areas of Rwanda following the Torrential rains, destroying homes and cutting roads. Images published on the Internet by state radio and television showed rivers of mud sweeping the streets as residents scrambled to safety, some wading through water or climbing onto the roofs of collapsed houses.

This small country in the African Great Lakes region has suffered similar catastrophes in the past, but this appears to be the deadliest in recent years.

The Rwandan government said it was enabling shelters for the homeless in schools and other buildings, without giving a number of displaced persons.

“Rescue interventions are being carried out in the most affected districts… in order to protect citizens in danger,” the office of the President Paul Kagame in a statement confirming the death toll of 127. “My condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of the landslides and floods that occurred last night in the Western, Northern and Southern provinces,” he said in another statement on Twitter. “We are doing everything in our power to deal with this difficult situation.”

floods in rwanda
Torrential rains caused flooding in western and northern Rwanda, killing more than 120 people (RwandaTV via AP)

state agency Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) said most of the deaths were in the western province, which borders Lake Kivu.

“I was at home with my children, but we successfully escaped before it collapsed,” said Jane Munyemana, a resident of the Western Province town of Rubavu. “We plan to remove the flood waters and sleep in it tonight, but we are worried that it might rain again and destroy what is left”, he told the news agency AFP.

In the first four months of 2018, more than 200 people were killed in Rwanda by floods and landslides.

Other parts of East Africa have also been hit by rain and flooding in recent days, including Uganda, where six deaths have been reported.

floods in rwanda
A swollen river in western Rwanda (RwandaTV via AP)

massive landslides

Alain Mukuralinda, deputy spokesman for the Rwandan government, told the AFP that residents in the affected areas have been instructed to do not stay in their houses at night and seek refuge in other places such as schools.

“We have gotten essentials like food, water and electricity at some of these sites and we are trying to get more necessities to make sure that all those affected do not lack the basics in this period,” he added.

The Rwandan minister in charge of emergency management, Marie Solange Kayisire, had previously told RBA that the authorities were already helping to bury the victims of the catastrophe and providing supplies to those whose homes had been destroyed.

“When the floods began, there were large landslides that caused the tree fall and buried the road. Our plantations were also razed. We have a big problem down here,” he told RBA a woman from the northern province.

floods in rwanda
A group of people cross a bridge strewn with debris from flooding (RwandaTV via AP)

In neighboring Uganda, six people died in the west of the country when landslides hit their homes after days of torrential rain., according to the local Red Cross. Five of the deceased belonged to the same family and were from the same village. Images shared by the Red Cross showed farmers in the area perched on the slopes of steep terraces digging through freshly slipped mud and houses buried in the mud up to the roofs.

East Africa often suffers from flooding and landslides during the rainy seasons, although several countries in the Horn of Africa have suffered their worst drought in decades.

Experts say extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change, and Africa, the continent that contributes the least to global warming, is bearing the brunt.

Last month, at least 14 people died after heavy rains triggered flooding and landslides in southern Ethiopia, regional police said. Hundreds of cattle were killed and dozens of houses were damaged.

floods in rwanda
Several people seek refuge after the floods (RwandaTV via AP)

In May 2020at least 65 people died in Rwanda due to heavy rains that hit the region, while in Kenya at least 194 deaths were recorded.

TO end of 2019at least 265 people died and tens of thousands were displaced during two months of incessant rains in several countries of East africa.

Extreme downpours affected close to two million people and wiped out tens of thousands of livestock in Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.


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