Rwanda's devastating floods, landslides deaths rise to 130

Thursday May 04 2023
Rwanda floods - People walk over a water bridge

People walk over a water bridge after their homes were swamped following rains that triggered flooding and landslides in Rubavu district, Western province in Rwanda on May 3, 2023. PHOTO | JEAN BIZIMANA | REUTERS

By Ange Iliza

After floods and landslides devastated districts in the north, west, and southern region of Rwanda on the night of May 2, the death toll rose to 130 by Thursday morning, according to the government's Deputy Spokesperson Allain Mukuralinda.

In addition, 77 individuals were injured, with 36 receiving treatment in local hospitals and five people are still missing. The district of Rubavu was hit the hardest, with over 1,000 homes destroyed due to ongoing rainfall.

Rescue teams are still working to recover bodies that are trapped in landslides and collapsed houses.

Rwanda floods Rubavu district

Residents wade through water after their homes were swamped following floods triggered by heavy rains Rwanda’s Rubavu district on May 3, 2023. PHOTO | JEAN BIZIMANA | REUTERS

In response to this crisis, various authorities, military forces, religious organisations and humanitarian groups have initiated interventions since Wednesday.

Affected individuals have been provided with essential items such as tents, blankets, food, and basic household utensils. Some people have also been accommodated in safe zones such as churches and schools.


According to a statement by the office of Rwandan president, rescue interventions including relocating residents from affected areas to safer zones have been carried out. Affected districts also increased from four to nine: Nyabihu, Rubavu, Karongi, Rutsiro, Gakenke, Burera, Musanze Ngororero, and Nyamagabe in the northern, western, and southern provinces.

It started raining on Tuesday around 11 pm and by Wednesday morning, over 50 people were declared dead. Among the victims is a family of five that was all killed in the disaster.

“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 took to Twitter to console survivors.

Rwanda normally experiences heavy rains and hailstorms between January and April, which often result in the loss of lives especially those living in high-risk zones.

Rwanda floods - A woman salvages household items

A woman salvages her household items washed away following flooding in Rubavu district, Western province in Rwanda on May 3, 2023. PHOTO | JEAN BIZIMANA | REUTERS

Read: Igad weather centre casts doubt on rains

In Kigali, 27,000 families still reside in high-risk zones where disaster always looms when it rains.

The deaths from the latest floods bring the toll to 197 lives lost since January, according to Rwanda’s Ministry of Emergency Management.

Search and rescue operations

Rwandan authorities have launched a search and rescue operation to locate victims of the floods and assist those affected by the disaster. Emergency facilities have been set up to help those who have lost their homes. Funeral preparations for those who died are underway.

Rwanda’s Minister of Emergency Management Marie Solange Kayisire on Wednesday morning said that the latest floods were because of the rains that soaked mountains and that victims were not only families living in high-risk zones given the mountainous nature of the region.

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.

Rwanda landslide

A landslide caused by heavy rain blocks the road in Mushubati, Rwanda. The country's presidency on May 3, 2023 said several regions were engulfed with floods and landslides, destroying homes and cutting off roads. PHOTO | MARIAM KONE | AFP

The Rwanda Meteorology Agency released a weather forecast for May, indicating above-average rainfall ranging between 50mm and 200mm across the country.

The forecast stated that the first 10 days of May 2023 would have a higher amount of rainfall in many parts of the northwestern region ranging between 175mm and 200mm. Four districts of Ngororero, Rubavu, Nyabihu, Rutsiro and Karongi were affected by the heavy rains on the night of May 2.

According to the weather forecast, Rulindo, Gakenke and Gicumbi districts are also likely to see similar amounts of heavy rains in the next few days.

On Wednesday morning, the main road from Kigali, crossing through Rulindo, Gakenke, Musanze and Nyabihu districts to Rubavu, was closed due to landslides.

A boy wades through flood waters in Rwanda

A boy wades through waters after their home was swamped by floods following heavy rains in Rubavu district, western Rwanda on May 3, 2023. PHOTO | JEAN BIZIMANA | REUTERS

Destructive storms

Rwanda has seen destructive storms over the years.

Read: Why Freddy is an exceptional storm

Floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains have cost Rwanda over 600 lives since 2018. Approximately 30,600 houses and over 35,940ha of crops have been destroyed, according to data from the Ministry in charge of Emergency Management.

In neighbouring Uganda near the border with Rwanda, six people died overnight into Wednesday in an area in the southwestern Kisoro district, after heavy rains pounded the mountainous region, according to the Uganda Red Cross.

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.

Uganda has also been experiencing heavy and sustained rains since late March and in recent days’ landslides have been reported in other elevated areas, like Kasese near the Rwenzori mountains, where deluges and floods destroyed homes and displaced hundreds.