This past year has been by far the wettest year since we've been in Uganda. Last year we had a very short dry season, and then the rains came again with extra vengeance. The second, shorter, dry season that is supposed to come about half way through the year--well it basically didn't happen at all. This year's dry season (which would normally start around late Dec or early Jan) was also very short, and the rains since then have been relentless. (The picture below was taken a few weeks ago, on my phone, from our house, overlooking Kampala as a storm builds.)
The result of all that rain is that Lake Victoria is now at record high levels. Yesterday it officially passed the previous highest-ever-recorded level. Many homes and businesses close to the lake are flooded. In fact, MAF's own runway was almost half underwater when we were finally able to get heavy equipment in there to start working on it, trying to build it up above the water line. Meanwhile, in both Eastern and Western Uganda, there have been widespread flash floods and landslides. Last weekend, tens of thousands were left homeless in western Uganda as a result. Here is a news story talking about it.
The picture below was taken by my friend and fellow MAF pilot, Andrew Parker, standing from the 'high' position up on the area where the MAF planes are usually parked. The nice, dry bit with the dotted lines on the right side--that's the taxiway to our parking area, which, although it doesn't look like it in the picture, is elevated quite a bit above the level of the runway. Beyond that is the runway, stretching across the picture from side to side. The picture is taken from about the middle of the strip. From there, all the way to the far end of the strip on the right side, the strip is completely under water--almost 2 feet deep at the far end. The water continues past the middle, towards the left side, where you can see that the workers were hard at work piling up loads of dirt, trying to make enough 'useable' runway for two of us to fly two of our planes out before the water levels rose even more. (I describe more of that below.)
And all of this is happening while the country is under a virtual lockdown due to the Covid-19 issues. These are tough times for a lot of people around the world, including for sure, here in Uganda. Between the Covid-19 lockdown (and resulting loss of income for many here who live hand-to-mouth), and the flooding, and the locust plagues, this is a very difficult time indeed for Uganda and the great part of East Africa.
I mentioned that much of our runway here was underwater. After a ton of effort form a lot of people building up the center of the runway, and creating a new taxiway, our engineers were able to tug two of our Grand Caravan aircraft to the dry end of the runway so that I, and the chief pilot, could reposition those aircraft over to the international airport 5 minutes flight away. The hope is that we (MAF) will be able to bring help and hope to many who are suffering in this region, though we are still struggling through myriad permission issues related to the lockdown. We appreciate your prayers in these matters. Below is a video of my takeoff from our home runway, Kajjansi, to reposition the plane to Entebbe, with about 500 meters of useable runway available (out of the usual 1100 meters).
At the end of my last post I promised to show you some more pictures of the beautiful people of South Sudan. So there they are...