Flash Floods in the Rwenzori Mountains—Focus on the May 2013 Multi-Hazard Kilembe Event

Conference paper


Over the past 50 years, at least seven major flash floods have affected catchments of the Rwenzori Mountains. The Rwenzori Mountains are not only subject to flash floods; forest fires, earthquakes and landslides occur as well. Many of the flash floods therefore co-occurred with other hazards. One of the most devastating of these events occurred on May 1st 2013, in the Nyamwamba catchment. Here we reconstruct the circumstances under which this flash flood event was triggered and its effects in this multi-hazard region. This includes the identification and characterization of different processes acting upon the catchment dynamics, their controlling and triggering factors and the estimation of the damaging effects of the flash flood within the catchment. The combined occurrence of intense rainfall, a forest fire having burned 18% of the catchment area and the occurrence of 29 landslides providing debris to the river system, induced a debris-rich and very destructive flash flood which caused several fatalities, the destruction of 70 buildings, several bridges, a hospital and a school, a tarmac road and several life lines. Peak flow discharge is estimated between 850 and 1300 m3/s. This case-study demonstrates that flash floods in the region should not be considered as self-determined phenomena but as a result of several cascading and interacting hazard processes including wildfires and landslides, occurring within a short time period.


Flash flood Landslide Forest fire Multi-hazard Equatorial africa 



We thank the VLIR UOS South Initiative project (ZEIN2013Z145) and the BELSPO AfReSlide project (BR/121/A2/AfReSlide) for financial support. Special acknowledgements go to the Kilembe Trekking Service, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Africa Nyamwamba Ltd, the Kasese district authorities and the Kilembe authorities, Mountains of the Moon University and all organizations and persons providing background reports and documenting the flood.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesRoyal Museum for Central AfricaTervurenBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Geography, Earth System ScienceVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Division of Geography and TourismKU LeuvenHeverleeBelgium
  4. 4.Division of Bio-EconomicsKU LeuvenHeverleeBelgium
  5. 5.Department of Natural Resource EconomicsBusitema UniversityKampalaUganda
  6. 6.Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, Land-Climate DynamicsETH ZürichZurichSwitzerland
  7. 7.Department of Hydrology and Hydraulic EngineeringVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

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