At least 13 people have died and several others are missing in a landslide near Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan after a drainage channel burst following torrential rains.
“The provisional death toll is 13 and searches are continuing,” Abidjan’s Prefect Vincent Toh Bi said on Thursday, adding that “20 houses were swept away” in the teeming suburb of Anyama, north of the coastal city.
About 10 people were hospitalised, locals said.
“I have lost my three-year-old son and I am looking for his body,” Aboubacar Dagnon told AFP news agency, after his wife’s home was flattened.
Another resident said a part of a hillock broke away and cascaded on homes at about 8am local time after a drainage channel collapsed.
The landslide occurred in an area which saw more than three times as much rain between June 12-15 than is usual, Defence Minister Hamed Bakayoko told journalists.
Amidou Sylla, the mayor of Anyama, said the death toll was expected to rise as the search for survivors was still going on.
“The toll could get higher with ongoing search. We could have at least 20 dead as a result of the landslides because there are still a lot of houses to explore,” Sylla told Reuters News Agency
Abidjan is home to some five million people, many of whom live in precarious shantytowns in flood-prone or dangerous zones.
Landslides and deadly floods are common in the city during the rainy season which runs from April until the end of October, routinely costing lives in informal settlements built into eroding hillsides.
There were heavy downpours in other parts of the country this week, raising concerns they could damage crops in the world’s top cocoa producer.
Farmers in the western region of Soubre, at the heart of the Ivorian cocoa belt, said the rains were so heavy they fear the torrents could pluck off young pods and flowers from trees. This could reduce crop output in August and September.
They added that harvested beans could become mouldy in the coming week as the weather remained cloudy, making it difficult to dry their beans properly because of lack of sunshine.
“The rains are a bit heavy,” said Salame Kone, who farms near Soubre, adding that if the downpours continued, farms could become flooded.
Data collected by Reuters showed rainfall in Soubre was 229.3mm (9 inches) in the week to Wednesday, 175.2mm (6.89 inches) above the five-year average.