The death toll in the flooding in western Rwanda has gone up to 127, according to the office of President Paul Kagame, as a rescue operation is under way to reach stranded people amid torrential rains.
“Rescue interventions are ongoing in the most affected districts … in order to secure endangered citizens,” Kagame’s office said in a statement on Wednesday.
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Six people were also killed overnight in neighbouring Uganda, in the mountainous southwestern Kisoro district, the Uganda Red Cross said.
François Habitegeko, governor of Rwanda’s Western Province, said, “It rained heavily all night, causing immense suffering in the districts of Ngororero, Rubavu, Nyabihu, Rutsiro, and Karongi.”
The hardest-hit districts in the province were Rutsiro, where at least 26 people died, Nyabihu with 19 killed, and Rubavu and Ngororero with 18 deaths each, he added.
Habitegeko said the rain started at about 6pm (16:00 GMT) on Tuesday and the River Sebeya burst its banks. “The soil was already soaked from the previous days of rain, which caused landslides that closed roads,” added the governor.
A video clip posted on the state-run Rwanda Broadcasting Agency’s Twitter account showed muddy water running along a road and houses that had been destroyed.
Heavy rains and floods have led to the loss of at least 55 lives in @RwandaWest.
— Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) (@rbarwanda) May 3, 2023
“This could be the highest disaster-induced death toll to be recorded in the country in the shortest period, according to available records from recent years,” the government-backed New Times newspaper reported.
The Rwanda Meteorology Agency has warned that more rain is coming.
Earlier in the day, government spokesperson Yolande Makolo said 55 people had died.
According to the Rwanda Meteorology Agency, the East African nation is expected to receive above-average rainfall in May.