The deaths from landslides are the latest in a flurry of tragic incidents related to repeated downpours across parts of East Africa.
Ten people were killed in a landslide in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lubero territory in North Kivu province overnight on Wednesday, local authorities have said – additional victims of recent heavy rains that have killed hundreds in floods in the broader region.
A recent downpour loosened the earth on a hillside above a village in the Vuveyi Lac area, burying the victims as they slept in their houses below, said Alain Kiwewa, Lubero’s military administrator.
“As of now, the bodies are still under the ground. Work is under way to get them out,” he said by phone.
Meanwhile, at least six people died in a landslide in the Songambele mine near the town of Rubaya in North Kivu province’s Masisi area, communication minister Patrick Muyaya said, according to local media Radio Okapi on Monday.
Nearly 100 mine diggers were stuck in the rubble, the report said, citing a source from the local administration.
At the same time, authorities in Kalehe territory in the neighbouring province of South Kivu were still digging through the mud to find bodies from deadly floods that have killed more than 400 people.
President Felix Tshisekedi declared on Monday a day of national mourning to mark the disaster.
As of Wednesday morning, the death toll was 426 with approximately 1,000 people still missing, according to Desire Yuma Machumu, head of the South Kivu Red Cross.
Aid workers expected to stay in the remote mountainous area for several weeks and were preparing for a possible cholera outbreak, which posed a major risk to survivors because of the lack of sanitation, he said.
Poverty and poor infrastructure have made these communities more vulnerable to extreme weather such as heavy rain, which is becoming more frequent and intense in Africa due to climate change, according to United Nations climate experts.
Repeated recent downpours have also raised the water table in the broader region, increasing the likelihood of flooding, said meteorology and hydrology engineer Theodore Lokakao Ilemba.
“It’s everywhere in the Congo and in Rwanda, it worsens [the impact of] the rainfall and all pre-existing problems like water drainage and land use,” he said.
Rains also triggered flooding and landslides in neighbouring Rwanda last week, killing 130 people and destroying more than 5,000 homes.