Deadly landslide strikes eastern Uganda

Red Cross field officer Michael Nataka says the area is known to be a landslide risk

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Many people are feared dead after a landslide struck three villages in a mountainous region of eastern Uganda.

The Ugandan Red Cross said 18 people have been confirmed dead, but expected the toll to rise as rescue efforts continue.

In one of the villages in Bududa district, more than 15 houses were buried.

The area lies near Mount Elgon, a major tourist attraction, which is close to the border with Kenya.

Member of parliament David Wakikona said he was worried that many villagers had been in their homes when boulders and mud crashed down the hillside, burying people alive.

"We don't yet understand how this all happened, but it's terrible," Mr Wakikona said.

He said at least 300 people lived in the affected villages.

The Red Cross has sent a team to the area to assess the extent of the damage and loss of life.

Uganda Red Cross Secretary General Michael Richard Nataka said that nine people had been taken to hospital with injuries.

In one village alone, he said, 15 homes had been buried and another 29 were at risk.

At least 72 people survived the disaster as they had been at the market rather than in their homes, he said.

The area has been experiencing heavy rains for several days.

BBC East Africa correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse in neighbouring Kenya says the area is prone to landslides, partly due to deforestation on the coffee-producing slopes of Mount Elgon.

Last August, at least 24 people were killed when mud washed away homes in the Bulambuli district of eastern Uganda.

In March 2010, thousands were forced to flee after after a landslide killed more than 350 people in Bududa.

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