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Update: death toll from Cameroon landslide surpasses 40


Death toll rises

state media on Tuesday evening reported that at least 42 people were killed after their houses were swept away in a landslide caused by torrential rain in the western Cameroon city of Bafoussam.

Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV) showed images of rescuers desperately sifting through rubble for survivors.

“Searches are ongoing. We fear there are further deaths,” a senior local official told AFP on condition of anonymity as nightfall neared.

We represent the government's solidarity with Bafoussam. I think it is useful that, without delay the government support the people here.

A total of 42 bodies were taken to the hospital in the city, according to an official statement read on CRTV.

Media reports had earlier spoken of about 30 dead, with the radio reporting that four pregnant women were among the victims.

It is estimated that at least 120 people live in the neighbourhood which was swept away by the floods.

State response

The landslide occured at around 21:00 GMT when most people were in their homes.

The government deployed rescue teams and the military at the site to search for more survivors.

The Centralization and Local development minister said the government has released $40,000 to help the local community.

“We present the government’s solidarity with Bafoussam. I think it is useful that, without delay the government support the people here who have lost everything so that they receive the kind of support that help them not to completely restart their lives but to at least deal with the present situation”, said George Elanga Obam, Minister for Centralization and Local Development.

Cameroon President Paul Biya offered his condolences to families of the victims in a message broadcast on CRTV.

What happened

Pictures of the tragedy in Bafouassam posted on social media showed ramshackle houses having crumbled into the ochre-coloured terrain and men clad in hard hats digging away at piles of mud in the search for survivors.

“The houses that collapsed were built on the side of a hill in a risk zone,” said the local official in the West Region, of which Bafoussam is the capital, some 300 kilometres (185 miles) northwest of the capital Yaounde.

He said the landslide was caused by torrential rains that have fallen in the country over the past few days as well as the wider region, with neighbouring Central African Republic and Nigeria also seriously hit.

“Around 10 p.m. I heard a noise,” said Albert Kenge, who survived the landslide. “I saw a big cloud of dust and when it dissipated, I saw that the mountain had collapsed.”

History of landslides

Landslides are quite exceptional in the area although further south they are less rare in the rainy season, notably in the English-speaking southwest.

It was in the southwestern coastal resort town of Limbe that five people died in a landslide following flooding in July last year.

Heavy rains continued beyond the end of Central Africa’s rainy season, causing severe flooding which has displaced nearly 30,000 people in Cameroon’s neighbour, the Central African Republic.

The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said last week that exceptionally heavy rain in South Sudan had destroyed health centres and roads, making access to food and water more difficult for nearly 1 million people.

Several agrarian states in another Cameroon neighbour, Nigeria, have also been hit by flooding. A torrential downpour Monday allowed dozens of inmates to escape from prison in the central state of Kogi.


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