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100 schoolchildren buried in Uganda landslide

Three entire villages were swamped in heavy rain in eastern Uganda last night. Dozens of homes were washed away and about 2,000 people were forced from their homes. A hundred schoolchildren were among 300 people killed.

Police officials said that at least 50 bodies were found this morning, although "about 300 people are feared buried by the landslide " Tarsis Kabwegyere, Uganda's Disaster Minister told Reuters news agency. In one village, Nametsi, about 100 primary school children who had not been able to cross the flooding Wukha River to go home, were buried. Two nurses and three of their patients in Nametsi Health Center were also buried.  “I had counted 50 bodies by the time I left the scene," said Kevin Nabutuwa, of The Uganda Red Cross Society.

He told the United Nations news service, IRIN that the situation was "desperate", adding that a total of 300 residents from the three villages were missing and just 31 villagers were known to have survived. “The situation is very bad. We are still waiting for the army to come in with equipment and a medical team to see whether there are those who can be rescued," said David Wakikona, Minister for Northern Uganda. A government response team was on the ground with food while police and volunteers were also helping in the rescue. Meanwhile the country’s disaster ministry has asked people living on mountain slopes to leave their homes, to avoid more landslides. People living in low-lying flood-prone areas have also been asked to move.

Food was very short because gardens and entire crop plantations were swept away by the mud, said officials. Drinking water was not available and washing facilities also destroyed. The mountainous district hit is the East African country’s leading coffee producer in, growing the country's premium Arabica coffee brands. Uganda and neighbouring Kenya have had above normal rainfall over the past two months and the Meteorological agency has forecast the heavy downpours will continue up to May, reported The Washington Post. Experts have warned that global climate change has been changing the rainfall pattern in the East African country from regular and moderate to more unexpected and extreme, raising risks of natural disasters like floods, landslides and prolonged droughts. In the 1970s and 1980s Uganda was notorious for its human rights abuses, first during the military dictatorship of Idi Amin then after the return to power of Milton Obote, who had been ousted by Amin. During this time up to half a million people were killed in state-sponsored violence.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children