Weatherman has raised red flag on possible loss of lives and property in Kigali and other districts across the country due to expected heavy rains.
According to Rwanda Meteorology Agency, the first 10 days of May will see heavy rains that could cause strong floods and landslides. The forecast is bad news for over 27,000 families who reside in high-risk zones in Kigali only.
According to the weather forecast, more districts are likely to experience heavy rains in the next week. Specifically, the forecast stated that the first 10 days of May 2023, will have a higher amount of rainfall, in many parts of the North Western region, ranging between 175 and 200 mm.
Four districts, Ngororero, Rubavu, Nyabihu, Rutsiro, and Karongi were affected by heavy rains on the night of May 2. The Minister of Emergency Management Marie Solange Kayisire said on Wednesday morning that the latest floods which left over 100 dead were caused by rains that soaked mountains.
“My deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of the landslides and floods that occurred last night in the Western, Northern, and Southern Provinces. We are doing everything within our means to address this difficult situation. I am personally following up on the response closely,” President Kagame said on Twitter on May 3 to console the affected families.
This tragic event has raised questions about the effectiveness of the country’s disaster prevention policies.
For instance, the government previously invested Rwf 21 billion in constructing facilities to contain Sebeya river floods that used to wash away people's properties and claim lives in Rubavu, Nyabihu, Rutsiro and Ngororero Districts.
Despite the investment, the river, which flows from the volcanoes and mountains in the northern part overflowed again on Tuesday night and destroyed people's homes and flooded sectors that were not affected before the construction.
“Mountains, trees, houses and infrastructure have all been affected. We have never had a disaster this bad. For now, the priority is to rescue people and put them in safe zones. We have recorded incidents in all parts of the district,” said Murekatete Triphose, Mayor of Karongi, one of the affected districts.
The recent disaster has brought the total toll to 169 lives lost since January, according to the Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management.
On Wednesday, the authorities launched a massive search and rescue operation to locate any survivors and assist those affected by the disaster. Emergency shelters have been set up to provide temporary accommodation for those who have lost their homes, while medical personnel are working tirelessly to treat the injured.
At least 408 disaster cases were recorded in this period. These include 107 windstorm cases, 66 rainstorms, three mine disasters, 77 lightning cases, seven landslides, 13 house collapses, eight hailstorms, 29 floods as well as 98 fires.
In 2017, Rwanda vowed to tackle disasters by improving the “co-ordination and engagement of all stakeholders to enhance information sharing, timely response and joint delivery of interventions' by 2024. The aim included relocating families from high-risk zones.
While the target of weather forecasts is to instill preparation measures, the hit districts rarely had preparation measures in place.
“The priority now is to rescue people and take them to safe zones. We cannot say what the next step is until we have decided what to do next. We are yet to have a meeting and discuss how to prepare for the upcoming rain,” said the Governor of the Western Province, Francois Habitegeko.
Rwanda has seen destructive storms over the years. Floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains had cost Rwanda over 600 lives since 2018 and about 30,600 houses.