Waist-deep flood hits Cameroon’s commercial capital after torrential rains

Residents make their way through a flooded street after the heavy rains in Douala, Cameroon, August 12, 2021. REUTERS/Joel Kouam

DOUALA (Reuters) – Residents of several neighborhoods in Cameroon’s commercial capital Douala woke up to waist-deep flood water on Thursday after torrential rains battered the city for over 24 hours.

One of the worst floods the city has seen in recent years left the ground floors of hundreds of homes under water, and cut off main roads, causing massive traffic jams as the downpour overwhelmed the drainage system.

“No one slept, from midnight we were upstairs,” said resident Nguefack Désiré.

On a major intersection in downtown Douala, the deluge overflowed culverts, causing traffic chaos as cars, trucks, motorbikes and pedestrians struggled to find high ground.

Some abandoned any hope of making it to work.

“I got up and went out at 6:30 a.m. but there was so much water I decided to go back home,” said taxi driver Moise Mbappe. “I came out again at midday and water had taken over everything. I went back to sleep.”

Floods are common during the March-to-October rainy season, when poor drainage systems mean greater destruction. Several countries in West and Central Africa have recorded severe floods in the past week.

On Wednesday, authorities in Niger said floods in the capital Niamey had killed five people. Since the start of the rainy season, 52 people have been killed and hundreds displaced across the country by floods, they said.

Julie Belanger, West and Central Africa director for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told Reuters on Monday that the agency was closely watching the floods across the region.

“Last year was devastating. The forecasts for this year are slightly more positive, but in West and Central Africa the floods have doubled between 2015 and 2020 – so there’s no decrease,” Belanger said.

(Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu and Joel Kouam in Douala; Additional reporting by Boureima Balima in Niamey and Alessandra Prentice in Dakar; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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