At least 34 people have been killed when a landslide rolled down the slopes of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda, wrecking homes and burying animals.
Martin Owor, commissioner for disaster preparedness and management, said the landslide tumbled onto a small town on the mountain’s slopes on Thursday afternoon.
“Most of the people were caught at the trading centre, the landslide pushed huge boulders into a river which burst its banks and the water swept away the people,” Owor added.
“Many more are missing, feared dead, we are reaching the peak of the second rainy season and it rained very heavily today,” he added.
The area, about 250km from the capital, Kampala, is close to the border with Kenya and is prone to landslides.
Relief teams are now combing the area to search for and rescue survivors, Owor said.
“There are people who were displaced and they need shelter, food and all other support and we’re moving that relief to the area.”
Some of the bodies were partly covered with banana leaves by people present at the site.
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Kampala, said communities in the area live on “steep slopes”.
“People survive by growing their own food, and a steadily growing population over many years has increased the demand for farmland,” Webb said.
“People have had to cut down trees and remove vegetation so they have space to grow their crops,” he added.
“It’s the roots of those trees that hold these fragile slopes together.”
At least 100 people were killed in a landslide in Bududa in March 2010. In 2012, landslides destroyed three villages in the region.
The government’s efforts to move vulnerable people to neighbouring districts have faced resistance from residents.