At least 20 people, many of them children, were killed overnight by devastating landslides in northern Rwanda triggered by torrential rainstorms, the disaster management ministry said on Sunday.
“Up until now we have counted at least 20 dead in landslides that buried houses in the district of Gakenke,” the ministry’s spokesperson Frederic Ntawukuriryayo told AFP.
“Most of the victims were children,” Ntawukuriryayo added, without specifying how many were minors.
The landslides occurred at the peak of Rwanda’s rainy season, affecting homes on hillsides and in valleys.
“It’s a huge catastrophe,” the spokesperson said, adding that rescuers had managed to pull some survivors out of the disaster area.
The hilly, densely populated central African nation is frequently hit by landslides and the government has been moving people out of the most at-risk areas in a bid to limit the casualties.
But “this year, the incidents and number of victims is rising”, said Ntawukuriryayo, blaming the El Nino weather phenomenon.
At least 67 people have been killed in such incidents across Rwanda from January to April this year, 12 of them on a single night in the suburbs of the capital Kigali, where 1,500 homes were damaged during rainstorms.