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Friday, May 24, 2024

Child snatched away by deadly Cameroon landslides

At least 30 people have been killed in landslides caused by heavy rains in Cameroon’s capital Yaoundé, the emergency services have said.

A local radio station put the death toll at 40, saying that many people are still missing.

Rescue efforts were hampered by floods, forcing locals to pull bodies out of the debris with their bare hands.

Heavy rainfall caused the Mefou River to burst its banks on Sunday, submerging several neighbourhoods.

The impoverished neighbourhood of Mbankolo, where many houses were built precariously on a hillside, was worst affected.

Local resident Ymele Guy told the BBC his child was killed by the flooding.

“I saw the disaster and just when I was informing my wife that things were bad, in a fraction of a second, my children and I were being submerged,” he said.

“I saved my wife and at least three children. The rain took along the fourth… the rain snatched that child away.”

Jouego Cathérine said her pregnant sister remained buried under the debris.

“I’ve still not found my sister. She got married in April. Together with her in-laws, all seven died here. Five corpses have already been recovered, it’s remaining two — my sister and a young girl.”

Landslides are frequent during the rainy season in Yaoundé – last year a soil embankment collapsed and killed at least 14 funeral attendees.

During Sunday’s disaster, dozens of houses were swept away by the raging floods.

One home had been reduced to a mere passageway – a shortcut for emergency responders and grief-stricken residents.

People from outside the neighbourhood turned up on Monday to witness the devastation, such was the scale of the disaster.

Interior Minister Paul Atanga Nji urged people, including residents, to evacuate the area “because the soil is unstable”.

Many local people remain in the neighbourhood, however, as temporary accommodation is still being set up.

“We are organising rescue efforts, mattresses, blankets and all that,” he said, adding that a three-month-old baby was among those who had been rescued.

Poverty and poor infrastructure make communities such as Mbankolo more vulnerable to extreme weather such as heavy rain, which is becoming more frequent and intense in Africa due to climate change, according to United Nations climate experts.

On Saturday, authorities in neighbouring Nigeria warned residents to expect floods in nine states as Cameroon began releasing water from its Lagdo Dam.

It is expected to do this until the end of this month, Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) said, adding that Cameroon’s dam was expected to spill water until the end of October.

Cameroon says the release of water is necessary due to heavy rains in the country’s north.

The release would be kept to a minimum, officials added.

Last year, the release of water from the dam caused flooding and fatalities in Nigeria, especially in Benue state, on the border with Cameroon.

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