Inadequate preventive mechanisms and loopholes in weather forecasting are to blame for the damage caused by recent torrential rains in different parts of the country.
A number of rain-related risks and incidents in recent weeks, including deaths and extensive damage to property such as houses, public infrastructure as well as crops have raised fears that the country is inadequately prepared for the heavy rainfall expected from this season to early next year.
At least 20 people have died and 57 injured in the rainy season, which started in August with many blaming the fatalities, damage to property and loss of livestock and crops on poor planning and failure of government agencies to provide appropriate forecasting information.
“If we had been given information early, we would have prepared ourselves to deal with the rain or evacuate,” said Philippe Habinshuti, a resident of Kamonyi, South of Kigali, who lost livestock and crops after last weeks’ torrential rain.
Figures from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees (Midimar) as of October 11 indicate that 20 people were killed after rain destroyed their houses, or were buried by landslides or drowned in flash floods in the different parts of the country, while 57 have sustained injuries.
Rains are expected to continue through November, December and first months of 2018.
The ministry recorded over 24,000 houses and over 100 classrooms destroyed, while around 60 electricity transmitters were damaged. Available figures show that over 1,500 hectares of crops have been destroyed by torrential rain countrywide.
The weather-related calamities have left numerous households dependent on agriculture counting their losses after they lost livestock and crops in flash rains and floods.
The southwestern, eastern and northern parts of the country are most affected, with Rusizi and Nyamasheke districts in western province sustaining most damage.
According to the ministry officials, the rain-related disasters are partly attributed to loopholes in the forecast information given out.
“We are still struggling with inadequate preventive mechanisms on the ground due to forecast disparities with the reality of what actually happens when it rains,” said Philippe Habinshuti, the Director of Response and Recovery Unit at Midimar.
As it is, Rwanda Meteorological Agency (Meteo) only forecasts the rain but does not provide information on how devastating the rain and accompanying winds will be.
“If we would get such information, it would help us and the people set up possible preventive mechanisms in advance like roof fixing and evacuation,” said Mr Habinshuti.
According to the ministry, besides the forecasts being too general, there are limited preventive mechanisms on ground aligned for disaster risks reduction.
Mr Habinshuti said that lack of water catchments and failure to rehabilitate existing ones makes many parts of the country vulnerable to flooding.
Meteo Rwanda blames the loopholes in its forecasts on limited resources and channels through which to communicate to the targeted groups.
According to Anthony Twahirwa, the Weather Services and Application Division manager within Meteo Rwanda, lack of adequate knowledge and skills by risk reduction workers to interpret and analyse the forecasts provided to them is also to blame.
Climate change has been blamed for extreme weather patterns in recent years, including unusual torrential rains over a short period, spelling doom for ill-prepared communities.