UNHCR slashes Burundi refugee figure from earlier 'guesstimate'

GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday that 72,618 people have fled Burundi in recent weeks, cutting its estimate of how many had sought asylum in neighboring countries by more than 30,000. The UNHCR had previously said 110,000 Burundians had fled to Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, where a cholera epidemic hit thousands taking refuge in the Kagunga peninsula. "A head count of Burundian refugees in Kagunga and the reconciliation of numbers of people who relocated by boat and on foot has resulted in a substantial reduction of previously reported numbers of Burundian refugees in Tanzania which were based on guestimates provided by refugees in Kagunga," the UNHCR said. The head count was conducted on May 22 by local authorities and U.N. and other humanitarian agencies, and found 8,529 people on the Kagunga peninsula, a number that had fallen below 1,600 by Tuesday morning. The outflow of people from Burundi to Rwanda had also been slowed by youth militias setting up road blocks around the capital Bujumbura and on the way to the Rwandan border. The revised figures included 46,061 refugees in Tanzania as of May 23, 26,759 in Rwanda as of May 17, and 9,798 in Congo as of May 24. (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Hugh Lawson)