Cameroon: Death toll rises to 37 in Douala building collapse

The provisional death toll from the collapse of an apartment building in Cameroon’s economic capital Douala rose to 37 on Monday as rescuers continued to search the rubble.

During the night of Saturday to Sunday, at around 1:30 am (00:30 GMT), a four-storey apartment building collapsed on another one-storey residential building in the north of the city.

The collapse, one of the most serious in the country’s history, killed 37 people and injured 21, five of whom were in a “complete emergency”, according to the governor of Litoral, one of Cameroon’s ten regions, Samuel Dieudonné Ewaha Diboua, and a fire official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Monday, Cameroon’s Minister of Urban Development, Celestine Kecha-Cortés, admitted to the press that she was facing “a dire situation”, to show her support for the victims and relief, specifying that “the building in question did not have a building permit”.

Work to clear debris using mechanical shovels continued on Monday in the hope of finding survivors, according to a local resident contacted by AFP.

On Sunday, the Laquintini hospital in Douala said it had taken care of “13 cases of this tragedy” and recorded two deaths, including a three-year-old girl and a 19-year-old young woman.

The hospital said the other 11 people admitted were three children, two teenagers, a 28-year-old woman and five men.

– “Faulty” –

A 15-year resident of the neighborhood, Prosper Tchinda, a ten-minute walk from the collapsed building, was one of the first to reach the scene after the accident. “There was one survivor who came out with just a few scratches, we also found a child safe and sound,” he told AFP by phone.

“The balance sheet could still climb”, fears the 42-year-old computer scientist, who assures that “at the time of the facts a celebratory event with music was taking place” and the building was in poor condition.

The building “looked to fail, there were cracks in the wall and it felt like it could collapse at any moment. It’s not really the type of building you want to live in there”, Nathalie, another resident, told AFP who went there soon after hearing a “huge noise”. This witness, who asked to remain anonymous, also claimed that a “party” was held in the building on the night of the incident.

“I am very worried. There are a lot of buildings that do not meet the standards. Everyone gets up and builds without any control whatsoever. We feel that the competent services of the Town Hall are not doing their job,” said Mr Tchinda.

In 2016, the collapse of a residential building killed five people in Douala and authorities questioned compliance with building standards. In June of that year, he identified 500 buildings “at risk of ruin” in the city.

Add a Comment