The death toll from the floods in Mt Elgon region has risen to 23 as more disasters are anticipated following heavy rain.
The bodies include 11 people, who were travelling in a Toyota Super Custom to attend a marriage ceremony in Kabwangasi Sub-county, Butebo District.
Police spokesman Fred Enanga yesterday said 23 bodies were recovered.
“Our teams have been sent to the scenes to help out in the search and rescue process,” Mr Enanga said.
The vehicle with its occupants was swept away at the flooded Nabuyonga Bridge after River Nabuyonga burst its banks following a Saturday night to dawn downpour.
Mr Hassan Kasandha, a groom, said the deceased were travelling from Kampala to attend his introduction ceremony.
“They were coming to attend my introduction. They were travelling in one vehicle and they all died after their car was swept into the river by the floods,” Mr Kasandha said.
Three of the deceased have been identified as Prossy Nalubega, Edward Mugumya and Richard Mulindwa. The deceased are siblings and were residents of Kabaga Village in Kiteeza, a Kampala suburb. They were also Mr Kasadha’s neighbours in Kabaga.
Mr Kasadha yesterday helplessly watched as one body after the other of the people he knew, including his best man-to-be, clerics and friends, were retrieved from the wreckage.
The introduction was called off to allow the bride and groom mourn their friends.
Mr Kasadha said he went to the Elgon region early enough to organise accommodation for those who were to accompany him to the introduction.
“They called me that they had reached Mbale, but when I called them back to direct them to a place where we were to meet, their phones were off. I waited for them on the road in vain. I thought maybe their batteries were off, only to hear in the morning that people had died in River Nabuyoga,” Mr Kasadha said.
When he noticed the number plate of the vehicle that had been swept by floods, Mr Kasadha suspected that his friends could be among the deceased.
The floods ravaged several areas after the rivers, including Nabuyonga, Namatala and Nambaale burst the banks, destroying houses and displacing hundreds of people.
In Kapsinda Sub-county, Kapchorwa District, a landslide killed a mother and two of her children.
Other victims are in a critical condition at Kapchorwa District Hospital.
Local rescuers used rudimentary tools to retrieve the bodies.
The government rescuers were not visible in many parts affected by the floods.
Mr Sadiq Bogere, a boda boda rider, who has joined other local rescuers to search for bodies, said the government had abandoned them.
“The government has been very slow in responding to this tragedy. The Prime Minister, Ms Robinah Nabbanja, only came, toured and took pictures and went back to Kampala. There is no response,” he said.
Ms Nabbanja visited the area on Sunday and pledged to send experts, including marine officers to help in recovery of the missing bodies.
“I was sent here by the President to assess and where necessary to give support to exhume and evacuate the bodies and also remove the trapped vehicles,” she said.
Mr Abdu Mugudwa, one of the affected residents, said hundreds of people were left homeless and had no food.
“We need the government to provide us with temporary housing structures because we don’t have accommodation,” he said.
Mr Abadallah Magambo, the deputy speaker of Mbale City, said the slow government response was a serious matter.
“The government should evacuate our people and also provide financial and psychosocial support,” Mr Magambo said.
The Mbale City Woman MP, Ms Connie Nakayenze Galiwango, said there was need for quick relocation of flood victims and provide them with shelter.
The Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Ms Esther Anyakun, said the ministry has dispatched the disaster rapid response teams to make assessments.
“We ask the general public to leave all the potential water ways both in the hills and valleys, landslide prone areas, we don’t want to lose more lives,” the minister said in her statement.
Mr Peter Opio, an environment and resident of Mbale City, said farming and unplanned settlement on the river banks will make the city vulnerable to floods.
“When I was growing up, the river banks were planted with trees and farming of mainly yams was only done at the banks, but over the years, settlements have taken place on river banks,” he said.
In Sironko and Bulambuli districts, about 100 homes have been buried and two roads cut off after the mudslides. In Sironko, the mudslides hit the Parishes of Nandago, Balugugu, Busiu in Bukise Sub-county and in Bulambuli, the affected sub-counties were Sisi and Namisuni
The roads that have been cut off are Kamu-Buginyanye and Namisuni-Bufumbo in Bulambuli.
Mr Gerald Nangoli, the MP for Elgon North County, said more than 500 people are homeless after their homes were buried.
Mr Herbert Musika, the secretary for social services in Sironko, urged the government to rescue the affected families. “We also call upon the people living in those risky mountain areas to vacate to safe areas as rains continue pounding the area,” he said.