At least 18 people have been killed with more feared dead in eastern Uganda after a mudslide buried several villages. The slide followed heavy rains in an area where deforestation is thought to contribute to the problem.
Rescuers battled to search for survivors on Tuesday, a day after a mudslide hit villages in the mountainous Bududa district near the border with Kenya.
The Red Cross confirmed that at least 18 people had been killed, and many more were feared dead.
"From the latest reports we have we can only confirm 18 dead but assessment of the devastation around the area is continuing," Red Cross spokeswoman Catherine Ntabadde said.
Three villages in the Bumwalukani parish on the slopes of the extinct volcano Mount Elgon were devastated by the mudslides, which hit around lunchtime on Monday.
"We estimate that each village had about 100 people and so the number of people who died might reach 300," local parliamentarian David Wakikona said earlier in the day. "The areas around Bududa district have been experiencing heavy rains for days now and I am told the landslides started around midday [Monday] and that they're still going on."
It is the third time in three years that eastern Uganda has been hit by similar disasters. Two dozen people were killed last year when mud covered their homes in Mabono village. More than 300 people died in the same district when a mudslide hit the same district in 2010.
Thousands have been evacuated from the area as part a program to avert future disasters, although many have refused to move. Environmentalists claim the problem is exacerbated by deforestation, with the local soil very fine and prone to movement.
ccp,rc/pfd (AP, dpa, Reuters)