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Rwanda’s flood victims speak out: ‘We’ve lost everything’

"Rwanda's flood victims speak out: 'We've lost everything'"

At least 127 people have been killed in Rwanda by floods and landslides triggered by heavy seasonal rains, the country’s president said. Dozens of homes and roads have also been destroyed in the small East African country.

According to the deputy government spokesman, Alain Mukuralinda, more than 5,100 houses have been destroyed and another 2,500 have been affected by the floods that began on Tuesday night. The death toll may be higher and rescuers are still trying to reach flood-affected people and property.

Rubavu, Ngororero, Nyabihu, Rutsiro, Karongi, Gakenke, Burera, Musanze and Nyamagabe districts are among the affected areas. In response, President Paul Kagame stated that the government is doing everything possible to address the situation and is closely monitoring the response.

Ongoing efforts include evacuating and temporarily relocating residents from affected and high-risk areas while the rain continues. A resident of the flood-affected western province, Nyirabihingwa Florence, reported losing everything, including seven houses, 500 chickens, a full food store and many other possessions.

Images posted on the Twitter account of the Rwandan Broadcasting Agency (RBA), which oversees state media, show extensive damage including destroyed houses, collapsed roofs, roads cut off by landslides, flooded fields and mudslides.

They welcome evacuees in schools

In Rubavu, the residents were taken by surprise. The Sebeya River, which flows into Lake Kivu a few kilometers away, overflowed its banks.

“I was at home with my children, but we managed to escape before it overflowed,” said Jane Munyemana, one of the residents. “We plan to remove the water and sleep inside tonight (Wednesday), but we are afraid it will rain again and destroy what is left.”

Visiting the city, the deputy government spokesman said that the authorities were organizing the reception of residents in tents and public buildings, including schools.

“None of them should spend another night in their homes, they should go to the nearest (reception) places,” said Alain Mukuralinda.

In Ngororero district in the western province, the rising Nyabarongo river has cut off the main road, “making the district inaccessible by road,” RBA said, warning that the river level “continues to rise.”

“When the flood started, there were huge landslides that knocked down trees and engulfed the road. Our plantations were also washed away,” said a woman interviewed by RBA in the northern province.

Six dead in Uganda

Seasonal rains in East Africa have also been deadly in Uganda. Six people died in a landslide triggered by heavy rains in the Kisoro region in the south-west of the country, not far from the Rwandan border, the local Red Cross reported.

Five of the victims belong to the same family from the town of Biizi, according to the organization.

Images released by the Ugandan Red Cross show people digging into a mudslide on the side of a hill and houses swallowed up to the roof.

East Africa regularly suffers from flooding during the rainy seasons.

In May 2020, at least 65 people died in Rwanda, while East Africa was hit by heavy seasonal rains that also killed at least 194 people in Kenya.

In late 2019, two months of unrelenting rains that triggered floods and landslides killed at least 265 people and displaced hundreds of thousands in the region, including Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan.

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

And in 2016, torrential rains left some 50 people dead after landslides in Rwanda, including in the Gakenke district.

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