Gatsata residents wary as rains pound risk zone

Fear and anxiety has engulfed high risk zone residents of Gasatsa sector, Gasabo district following last Sunday’s torrential rains which left one person dead.
A view of Gatsata, a suburb of Kigali. Most of the houses in the sector are built on steep slopes. The New Times/  Timothy Kisambira.
A view of Gatsata, a suburb of Kigali. Most of the houses in the sector are built on steep slopes. The New Times/ Timothy Kisambira.

Fear and anxiety has engulfed high risk zone residents of Gasatsa sector, Gasabo district following last Sunday’s torrential rains which left one person dead.

The heavy rains also destroyed several houses, and left scores injured in Rubonobono village, Nyamabuye cell, Gatsata sector.

Despite persistent calls from the government to vacate the high risk zone, the residents have refused to leave even as their lives are in harm’s way.

The sector has over 500 households that are in disaster prone areas, and plans are underway to relocate them to safer zones, according to authorities.

Nyamabuye cell, for example is  dotted  with houses in a sorry state and on verge of collapse. They are built on steep slopes with hardly any support.

“At around 2am on Sunday night,   I  suddenly heard a loud bang. I immediately got out of the house only to find my that neighbour’s perimeter wall had fallen on one of my houses, triggering its collapse,” Elizabeth Nyiraneza, the landlady of a recently collapsed house told The New Times on Tuesday. “I called for help. People came and started digging through the rubble for my tenants, but unfortunately one died on the way to hospital.” 

According to Nyiraneza, the deceased, Maria Nyandwi, had come to visit her boyfriend and stayed overnight only for the collapsing house to end her life. The boyfriend escaped with minor injuries but has since recovered and found alternative housing.

The 50-year-old landlady, now fears that her other house will also give way due to the April rains.

“I appeal to the government to help me get a safer place. I would love to leave this area right now but I do not have anywhere to go. Currently,  I cannot afford another piece of land or a house in safer areas in Kigali,” she said.

She is not alone. According to Vivince Twagirayezu, the Rubonobono village leader, there are about 55 families in this villlage.

“We have been experiencing mudslides during heavy rains but nobody had lost a life. The death of Nyandwi should serve as a warning for us to vacate this place,” he said. “But most people say they do nothave anywhere to go.”

Colonel Mbarushimana, the in charge of development, finance and social affairs in Nyamabuye, cell said the area, that shelters 2,300 people, is one of the most risky zones due to its topography. 

 “We have issued an ultimatum to residents to leave the place but they are reluctant to relocate saying they don’t have where to go. I have told them to find temporary shelters where they can stay as the government plans what to do for them,” he said.

Nyamabuye, alongside other cells like Nyamugali and Karuruma in Gatsata sector, have been marked as disaster prone zones, and the government has issued a directive to residents to relocate to safer areas. In Kimihurura sector, at a place commonly known as Kosovo, 44 households living in the risk area are also yet to move.

Currently, about 10,000 families live in houses built on steep hillsides and around marshlands which are identified as high risk zones, 45 per cent are renting while 55 per cent are living in their own houses, according to City of Kigali officials.

About Rwf56 billion has been earmarked by the City authorities to facilitate the relocation of the most vulnerable among the affected population.

“We have issued the directive (to relocate) to them as a precaution following the heavy downpour that continues to trigger disasters in the area,” said Joseph Kayibanda, the executive secretary of Gatsata sector.

He added that, the people in the area have been given relocation notices and perhaps the affected and most vulnerable will be moved to Mont Jari area.

“They have been indentified based on Ubudehe classification. They will be given plots and iron sheets to construct their own houses,” Kayibanda explained.

Fidele Ndayisaba, the Mayor of City of Kigali insisted that residents in the  designated high risk areas in Kigali have been advised to relocate but they have turned deaf ears.

“We have realised that most victims of heavy downpour are tenants in the risky areas, so they should look for houses in safe zones around Kigali instead of risking their lives,” he said.

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