Flood death toll rises to 17 people

RUBAVU – Two more bodies of flood victims have been retrieved in Bigogwe Sector in Nyabihu District, bringing the death toll to seventeen. The dead persons could not be identified as their bodies had already decomposed. Heavy rains on September 12 caused loss of lives with floods sweeping away scores of houses and other property, and drove thousands into camps. Ten bodies were recovered immediately after the rains, while five others were found on September 14.
A man recovering roofing materials from a house submerged by floods in Bigogwe Sector, Rubavu District, Northern Province. The death toll has risen to seventeen.  (Photo / M. Mazimpaka)
A man recovering roofing materials from a house submerged by floods in Bigogwe Sector, Rubavu District, Northern Province. The death toll has risen to seventeen. (Photo / M. Mazimpaka)

RUBAVU – Two more bodies of flood victims have been retrieved in Bigogwe Sector in Nyabihu District, bringing the death toll to seventeen. The dead persons could not be identified as their bodies had already decomposed. Heavy rains on September 12 caused loss of lives with floods sweeping away scores of houses and other property, and drove thousands into camps. Ten bodies were recovered immediately after the rains, while five others were found on September 14.

Rescuers continue to search for more bodies in the rubble.

The Mayor of Nyabihu District, Charles Ngirabatware, said that there is a possibility of recovering more bodies.

He said there could have been more unknown victims such as the passersby and visitors whose identities are not known to many people in the most hit areas.

“The heavy rains buried people, sank domestic animals as cows, goats, among others. Therefore possibility to recover more victims is high as water levels continue to fall,” he added.

Nyabihu, which Ngirabatware say supplies over 70 percent of Irish potatoes consumed countrywide, lost almost all of the plantations due to the heavy rains.

Ngirabatware appealed to the government and humanitarian agencies to form a taskforce to tackle the deteriorating environmental problems especially the deforestation of Gishwati forest, which has largely been blamed for the disaster.

Deforestation

“Gishwati is a fertile area which can be used for agricultural and other developmental activities there is need to have the involvement of experts in order to devise and implement measures which will help stop soil erosion, as well as striking a balance between the need for grazing and farming land, and planting of trees,” the mayor observed.

He said that the district was doing every thing possible to resettle the displaced people in new places at the same time planting trees and grass on the elevated Gishwati hill.

He said some people had already been relocated to safer residential areas. Meanwhile, National Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) has donated Frw5 million to the displaced people who are now in Nkamira and Bigogwe Camps.

Frw3 million went to Nyabihu while the balance was given to the neighbouring Rubavu District.

ORTPN official, Augustine Rurangwa, said that the financial assistance would help address some of the environmental challenges affecting the districts.

The government offered iron sheets for the displaced families while the Red Cross, the main agency, actively involved in supplying relief items to the affected people. The heavy rains left 351 families in Nyabihu homeless displacing up to 1700 persons, while 81 families with 500 people in Rubavu lost their homes as well.

Similar floods have ravaged other parts of the continent including the neighbouring Uganda and experts associate it with climate changes.

In the meantime, the State Minister for HIV/Aids and other Infectious Diseases Dr Innocent Nyaruhirira yesterday started a five-day tour of the districts bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) particularly in the camps of persons displaced by the floods.

The visit, according to one of the people on the minister’s entourage, is aimed at assessing the state of the government-issued alertness in the wake of the recent outbreak of Ebola Virus in the DRC.

For some days now, travelers from DRC are screened upon entering Rwanda and the government has discouraged trips to Congolese regions affected by the deadly illness, which kills 90 percent of its patients, according to health experts.

“The minister will also be sensitising displaced people to keep proper hygiene standards to prevent an outbreak of contiguous diseases,” a health ministry official said. Nyaruhirira will also hold several meetings with local leaders to jointly devise ways of keeping the border areas safe from epidemics.

New Ebola cases

In a related development, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday that eight more cases of Ebola have been identified in the DRC, raising to 17 the number of people confirmed to have contracted the deadly illness.

The cases were confirmed by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib told reporters. The outbreak in the DRC was the first major resurgence of Ebola in years.

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