Cameroonian authorities say record flooding on its western border with Nigeria has killed at least six people, washed away homes, and destroyed thousands of tons of food meant for export.
In a video circulated on social media platforms by Widium council officials, civilians asked the Cameroon government to help clear the road of earth, mud and stones to enable them to leave Widikum.
Among the merchants is Paul Okafor, a Nigerian who buys palm oil and vegetables from Widikum to sell in his country. He said floods and landslides have blocked him in Widikum for five days, and no vehicle has been able to leave or enter because flood waters have covered roads and landslides are pulling down hills on roadsides.
Okafor said the vegetables and tomatoes he bought are beginning to rot, and Widikum vegetable farmers are complaining that their harvest is decaying.
Andoh Stanilos, the mayor of Widikum district, acknowledged that his council staff shared the videos. He said floods that triggered landslides killed six people, left hundreds homeless, and destroyed homes and warehouses.
“The floodplains overflooded and completely swept off houses,” he said. “At the moment I speak, there are over 55 people who are without something to eat. The council is trying to mobilize some resources, so I send this SOS to the government and people of goodwill to come to the assistance of persons who are destitute now.”
The floods destroyed a 36-meter-long bridge on the River Momo, keeping hundreds of merchants and commuters stranded on both sides of the river. Momo, an administrative unit where Widikum is found, is a production basin for palm oil, maize, potato, tomatoes and vegetables.
Cameroon’s National Observatory on Climate Change last month predicted that floods and landslides would hit many Cameroonian towns and villages including Widikum.
Forghab Patrick, deputy director general of the observatory, said homes built in flood-risk areas made the situation even worse.
“People build in marshy areas,” Patrick said. “What happens? Water cannot circulate correctly because the houses block even the waterways and at the end of the day, those living in those homes are all exposed.”
The government said it is educating people to stop settling on risk zones, but has not said if it will provide the food and water-hungry victims are asking for.