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UN: Death Toll of Landslides and Flooding in Uganda Rising

The United Nations reports the situation in flood-stricken Uganda is worsening as landslides continue to inflict heavy damage on villages. The United Nations says 94 deaths so far have been confirmed and 300 people are still missing and thousands of people have been displaced.

The United Nations reports three villages in Bududa District were buried by landslides on March 1. The disaster occurred following several consecutive days of heavy downpours in this mountainous area.

A spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Elizabeth Byrs, tells VOA search and retrieval operations, led by the Uganda People's Defense Forces, are continuing in the three villages.

"The search and rescue operation was so difficult to organize because people could not bring heavy machinery to recover the bodies and the survivors," said Elizabeth Byrs. "They had to dig with their hands. They had to dig with tools and they could not bring heavy machinery because of other landslides and because of soft ground."

Byrs says the operation now is mainly focused on relocating at-risk populations to safer areas. She says a temporary camp has been established at Bulucheke, some seven kilometers from the disaster.

She says 3,300 people at the camp are receiving assistance. But, she says a new site will have to be found to accommodate hundreds of other disaster victims who are expected to arrive.

She says a recent inter-agency assessment estimates more than 33,300 people have been affected by the flooding. In some places, she says floods have submerged crop fields and vital infrastructure, including roads, schools and houses.

Byrs says fears are rising of outbreaks of water-borne diseases.

"It is of concern," she said. "The floods have submerged critical infrastructure, including the water sources, health facilities, schools, roads, and bridges. So, there is a priority to bring to those people medicine and provide them with potable water and water and sanitation kits."

The Ugandan government has not appealed for international help. But, Byrs says this could change at any time.

She says the country is strapped for cash and previously pleas for outside help have gone unheeded. A few months ago, she notes, the United Nations appealed for $197 million to fund humanitarian programs in Uganda this year. So far, she says the government has received only one percent of that money and there have been no pledges of future money.