The quiet neighbourhood of Mbankolo in Yaoundé, Cameroon, was thrown into a state of sadness and grief following a destructive event triggered by heavy rainfall on the night of Sunday, October 8.
The downpour resulted in the rupture of a small dam in the area, leading to a devastating landslide that claimed the lives of 27 people and caused extensive damage to over 30 houses.
From the night of Sunday, October 9th, to Monday, October 10th, a heart-wrenching scene have left families, loved ones, and concerned individuals restless as they weep for the families that have tragically perished.
Rescue missions launched operation retrieve the bodies of those lost in the disaster. While others remained unaccounted for, eyewitness accounts painted a picture of chaos and despair.
Believer Sanyu, an internally displaced person from the Southwest Region of Cameroon, shared her harrowing experience. She recounted hearing her neighbours’ cries and screams, prompting her to investigate the commotion. To her shock, she discovered an overflow of water flowing through the neighbourhood, carrying away personal belongings and causing immense destruction.
“The rain fell as we sheltered inside. Suddenly, I heard my neighbours cry out, “Water! Water!” Confused, I hurried outside and found a crowd gathered near my house. Glancing across, I witnessed water rushing, carrying mattresses, kitchen utensils, and various belongings with it,” she recounted.
Overwhelmed by the loss of her neighbours, Believer contemplates leaving the area in search of a safer haven.
Another resident, Samuel Tardzernyuy said, “At around 6:00pm, the rain began to pour. Stepping outside my house, my neighbour informed me of a gas bottle floating in the water. While discussing this, we received news and promptly began to investigate.”
Tagwi Edmond, one of the individuals involved in the search and recovery operations, said despite their relentless efforts throughout the night, the number of casualties continued to rise. He assured the public that the search would continue, emphasising the arduous nature of the task.
Petatoa Douafong, Deputy Commander of the National Fire Brigade, told the Press that their team were alerted on Sunday evening and swiftly deployed to the three affected sectors.
“Yesterday, we recovered the bodies of 15 individuals, and today we recovered eight more. Our search efforts are ongoing, and this count is not yet final. We remain dedicated to providing assistance to those in need. Our team is tirelessly working in the field, and all the deceased have been taken to the Yaoundé Central Hospital Mortuary,” he said.
However, Joseph Asom, Chief of the area, stated that the dam was constructed by the Germans many years ago and has never undergone any rehabilitation. He has consistently raised concerns about the dam due to its evident signs of structural instability. “A local company was tasked with reinforcing the dam, but unfortunately, heavy rains resulted in its subsequent breakage.”
Search efforts are ongoing, as a survivor reported that one of the worse scenarios is a family who celebrated a birthday on October 8 is believed to be missing, along with the children who attended the party.
Atanga Nji Paul, the Minister of Territorial Administration, and Celestine Courtes Ketcha, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, visited the site to assess the extent of the damages.
The devastating landslide caused by heavy rainfall in Mbankolo has left the community shattered, mourning the loss of loved ones and contemplating the need for relocation. As rescue efforts persist and the government faces scrutiny, it is evident that immediate measures must be taken to prevent such disasters in the future and ensure the safety of the citizens