The volcanic ash over Europe that has grounded flights has had some far-reaching affects. Thousands of farm workers in Kenya have been temporarily laid off.
Agriculture is East Africa’s largest export sector and employs hundreds of thousands of people. The head of the Kenya Flower Council has stated that 3,000 tons of flowers have been thrown away.
Other industries in the area have been affected by the grounding of planes for a fifth consecutive day.
Refrigerated storage units at the city’s airports and farms are completely full. Chief executive of the Fresh Produce Exporters, Stephen Mbithi, has described the situation as “disastrous”. He also said, ” On average we ship some 1,000 tons worth $3 million per day.”
Horticulture recently became Kenya’s greatest export earner and accounts for roughly 20% of the economy.
There was an unexpected change in the weather on Wednesday for most of those in the capital of Nigeria. A sudden dust storm frightened the country of nearly 150 million people, blotting out the sun and canceling many airline flights. People feared for the worst, expecting things like acid rain to begin falling, but meteorologists say it’s because of the harmattan, “a yearly trade wind that brings dust from the Sahara Desert through Nigeria and the rest of West Africa”. However, this isn’t normally the time of year when it appears, which is causing experts to believe it could be a result of global warming. This is not a good sign for Africa’s most populous nation. If that appears to be the case, the rainy season could be delayed, which would throw off the seasons entirely and farmers will no longer know when to begin planting.
The already heavily polluted air in Lagos has now been made even worse by the dust and doctors have warned the public to stay indoors or cover faces with wet cloth. In spite of this, many people work outside, in the streets, and really have no choice but to be outdoors. According to the Associated Press, “The harmattan, caused by shifting weather patterns, means “tears your breath apart” in Twi, a West African language. The harmattan season typically begins in late November, as Nigeria’s dry season begins to end. The winds carry the sands and dust of the Sahara southward, and pick up the loose crop soil of Nigeria’s arid northern Sahel with it”. Meteorologists predict that it will be gone by week’s end; however, the changing weather patterns could be here to stay.
A giant mudslide swept through the slopes of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda, a village of 350 people. This powerful mudslide left only 40 survivors in this small, rural town.
Rescue workers have so far found almost 90 bodies. The rest are missing, presumed dead.
The mudslide moved millions of tons of dirt and rocks to cover the three villages. The nearest road is a two hour walk away, which is now covered in debris and mud left from the mudslide. With the surrounding areas in this state, there is no chance of getting heavy earth-moving equipment in.
Chairman of the Ugandan Red Cross Society, Michael Nataka, says “Some bodies are buried under mud maybe five or ten or even fifteen meters deep. It would be best if we just declared it a giant cemetery.”
Rain continues to pour down on the villages and nobody expects this disaster to be the last.
Heavy rains occurred in Uganda on Monday, producing a tragic landslide that has so far claimed 92 lives and 250 people are still being reported missing. During this time, schoolchildren were told to seek cover in the nearby hospital, yet the hospital was disastrously engulfed by the landslide. Many students are missing and hundreds are feared dead, as the landslide struck three villages. According to the Associated Press, “mud debris towered more than 16 feet high in some places”, and rescuers had to use hand tools to dig through the mud because there are no roads in these villages, thus no access to bigger equipment.
The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, has ordered the remaining residents to move away from the sliding hillsides. He’s claimed that “this tragedy could be blamed on the fact that people chose to settle in the flood valley of the nearby River Manafa, and because farmers had stripped the land clear of thick plant life that better retain water”. A comment like this, during times like these, seems extremely heartless and in my opinion, cruel; especially coming from the president of a country whom has just suffered such a great loss. To even hint at the idea that this tragedy could in some way be their own fault is disgraceful. Uganda has been exposed to many extreme landslides in the past 35 years, but rarely has the death toll been this high.