Emergency crews in Rwanda were on Thursday searching for survivors of flash flooding and landslides that have killed at least 129 people in the west and north of the country.
“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.
A video clip posted to Twitter by the state Rwanda Broadcasting Agency showed houses destroyed by a rapidly flowing deluge of muddy water.
“Our main priority now is to reach every house that has been damaged to ensure we can rescue any person who may be trapped,” François Habitegeko, governor of the hard-hit Western Province, told Reuters.
Reports say the heavy rain began falling about 6pm local time on Tuesday, causing the River Sebeya to burst its banks.
“The soil was already soaked from the previous days of rain, which caused landslides that closed roads,” Habitegeko said.
An undisclosed number of victims were rescued and taken to hospital.
Meanwhile over the border in neighbouring Uganda, six people were reported killed after heavy rains pounded the mountainous region, the Uganda Red Cross said.
Five of the dead are from one family, and emergency workers have begun excavations to retrieve the bodies, the Red Cross said in a statement.
More rain to come
According to the Rwanda Meteorology Agency, the country is expected to receive above-average rainfall in May.
The government has in the past asked residents living in wetlands and other dangerous areas to relocate.
The western and northern provinces and Kigali, the capital, are particularly hilly, making them vulnerable to landslides during the rainy season.
According to the Rwandan Government’s Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management (Minema), more than 60 people died from disasters between January and April this year.
Rwanda’s Northern and Western provinces have been worst hit.
Minema said the Northern Province alone has endured 1,500 cases of disaster ranging from floods and landslides over the last five years.