At least 60 people have perished in flooding and landslides in a night of torrential rain that has swept away hundreds of homes and cut off roads and power in the Burundi capital, officials say.
Police in Bujumbura said the toll was the highest in living memory from a disaster caused by freak weather, with scores of people injured.
“So far we have registered 60 people killed, 81 wounded and more than 400 houses destroyed,” said Alexis Manirakiza, a spokesman for the Burundi Red Cross, adding that most of the victims were children.
He said three other provinces close to the capital — Cibitoke, Bubanza and Bujumbura Rural — had also been affected by torrential rain and said the nationwide toll could yet rise further.
Torrential rains began battering the city late on Sunday and houses in the poorer parts of town are often built from mud bricks, which offer no resistance to torrents of water and mud.
“It’s the first time in the history of Bujumbura that we have seen damage on this scale,” Bujumbura mayor Saidi Juma said, calling for “solidarity on a national and international scale” to help the city cope.
Zawadi, a mother-of-five, stood in the ruins of her Kinama home, feeding her five-month-old baby surrounded by jerry cans and muddy clothing.
“I heard the children shouting during the night,” she said, recounting how she had gone into their room to find them standing up on their bed, which was already under water.
The whole family was able to run outside before the walls caved in, but one neighbouring family was less fortunate, with the parents and their three children crushed to death.
Burials of the victims began on Monday.
Security Minister Gabriel Nizigama said this was because there was not enough space for their bodies in the capital’s mortuaries.