A large landslide occurred a few days ago on the slope of the Kirassa River valley in Burundi, south of the Schoenstatt Center in Mutumba. When the earth began to shift on Friday afternoon, April 19, people rushed out of their homes to get to safety. As darkness fell, there was a landslide, which killed one child and caused 2,485 people to lose all their belongings.

375 houses were destroyed, and 500 acres of cultivated land collapsed into the abyss. Twelve new houses of the Kirassa project were completely destroyed. The hydroelectric power plant of the mission station run by the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, whose turbine supplied electricity not only to the station, was also affected.

This is not the first time that the Kirassa River has impacted the hydroelectric power plant. Back in 2016, the river overflowed its banks after a heavy storm and filled the inlet channel of the hydroelectric power plant with mud and stones, which led to its shutdown. This power station supplied electricity to eight schools, the health center with its obstetrics department, many small artisanal businesses (sewing workshop, hairdresser, sawmill, etc.) and the missionary center of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary (Photo: Seizer)

The turbine is underground and unusable

The magnitude of the disaster became evident the next morning. The hill on the south side of the Kirassa River had slid down and blocked the entire river. The soil from the hill completely buried the hydraulic turbine and the first pillar of the power line. The road to the turbine, which had provided electricity not only to the sisters’ mission station since 1978, but also to the entire community on the hill, all the schools, the health center, the handicraft workshop, the parish and the homes of the families, is no longer accessible. After the water began to recede, the river gradually found another path.

New ways of supplying electricity, especially to the health center, are being sought

The population around the Schoenstatt center is very poor. Many have lost everything as a result of this natural disaster. They are turning to the Sisters for help in many ways.

For the Sisters of Mary, keeping the health center running is of vital importance for the population of the entire region. The community is grateful that they were able to obtain diesel for the emergency generator the day after the landslide, so that the most needed equipment can be used at the health center at least temporarily and electricity is available in case of an emergency. Since diesel and gasoline are hard to come by and very expensive in Burundi, the power needs cannot be covered by a single generator over the long term.

The access road to the old hydroelectric power plant no longer exists (Photo: Seizer)

“We are thinking about how we will be able to continue,” says the Sisters’ superior. “We have been trying for a long time to arrange a connection from the State to the power plant in Kabezi, somewhat further away, but so far to no avail. We have to keep trying.”

Since Burundi does not have enough electricity in general, even in the financial capital Bujumbura, there are repeated outages. A connection to Kabezi would probably not be a safe solution. That is why the sisters want to try to install a photovoltaic system.

Many people have lost all their belongings. Twelve new houses of the Kirassa project (the blue roofs in the photo) were also completely destroyed (Photo: Seizer)

How to help

The Sisters of Mary in Mutumba need every possible contribution to provide emergency relief to the affected families and rebuild the power supply.

Online donations – click here

Donation account in Germany:

Missionszentrale Vallendar,
Liga Bank eG,
IBAN DE10 7509 0300 0000 0589 20,
BIC GENODEF1M05,
Reference: Erdrutsch Mutumba

Contact through the Mission Center of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary: sr.mariana@schoenstaetter-marienschwestern.org