At least 49 people, mostly children, are believed to have been killed in landslides caused by heavy rains in northern Rwanda. Another 26 people were injured, with more than 500 houses destroyed and several roads damaged in the incident which occurred over the weekend (7 - 8 May), the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs said in a statement.
"The Government of Rwanda regrets the loss of life and express solidarity with affected families, salutes residents who came to the rescue of their neighbours and those hosting people left homeless, and assures victims of the disaster that required assistance will be provided," read the official release. "Coordinated efforts by all stakeholders have been mobilised to prevent similar disasters from occurring during this rain season."
El Nino and climate change
Floods and landslides are common in Rwanda during the rainy season. Heavy rains have been affecting several countries in East Africa, where weather conditions have been adversely affected by the El Nino phenomenon resulting in the warming of the Pacific Ocean. Rising temperatures have also caused severe droughts in several Africa countries, where millions are facing food shortages.
Frank Habineza, leader of Rwanda's opposition Democratic Green Party told IBTimes UK climate change had been affecting the landlocked nation. "We have floods that take houses and even lives, even in the capital Kigali. We also have issues related to desertification," he said.
"In the Eastern Province, in 2015, we had internal migrations because people did not have enough food and had to walk from their homes to other areas in the country. There have been climate adaptation policies to address some of these challenges, but as a party we call for more."