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Floods in northern Cameroon kill nearly 30 people, affect more than 26,000

By Tapang Ivo Tanku, for CNN
updated 10:45 AM EDT, Mon September 17, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nearly a month of heavy rain has destroyed homes, crops and barns, killed livestock
  • The death toll is expected to grow as bodies are collected in the country's Far North Region
  • A dam fracture has caused a river to flood villages
  • Government response criticized as aid trickles in to flood victims

Maroua, Cameroon (CNN) -- Flooding in Cameroon's Far North Region has killed nearly 30 people and affected more than 26,000 others, officials said Monday.

More than 4,000 people in the Logone and Shari division were displaced, and more than 22,000 people in the region of Maga, Mayo-Danay division, also have been affected.

Communication Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary described the flooding as "a calamity," and he called for urgent action to save lives, livestock and property. Dana FM, a local radio station, said the death toll will grow as bodies are collected and identified. For the past few weeks, there has been no sign of the flood easing.

The floodwaters have submerged areas like Benoue, Faro, Louti and Mayo. Homes, crops and barns have been destroyed and herds of livestock killed. Heavy rainfall that has lasted nearly a month has fractured the Lagdo Dam, causing the Benoe River to flood nearby villages.

Cameroon's government has dispatched a military contingent to the area to help and evacuate victims, and the government of Morocco sent food and other aid Saturday.

Aid agencies like Plan International Cameroon and the United Nations Population Fund are concerned about the potential spread of infectious diseases such as cholera and malaria. About 3,000 people have been hospitalized, and tents have been erected to house victims.

Demian Toh, a Red Cross official, told CNN that food supplies are running low and the tents are inadequate for the tens of thousands of displaced flood victims. Toh said there were serious concerns about malnutrition among women and children.

In 2010, flooding in northern Cameroon triggered an outbreak of cholera that claimed nearly 6,000 lives, according to official estimates.

In neighboring Nigeria, dozens of dead bodies have been found floating in remote areas of Adamawa state. Officials there are blaming Cameroon for not alerting them before excess water was released from the Lagdo Dam.

The disaster is being called the worst flooding in Cameroon in more than 60 years. Opposition party member Paul Ayah Abine said the casualties and the insufficient aid given to the thousands of victims show clearly that the government has a fragile emergency unit that cannot predict and respond quickly to natural disasters.

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