, 31 October, 2019 / 11:32 PM
Following the Tuesday, October 29 landslide in Cameroon’s western city of Bafoussam that has claimed the lives of at least 42 people with many others still unaccounted for, the Local Ordinary of Bafoussam diocese has expressed his solidarity with the victims of the tragedy and the affected families and asked his priests to celebrate Mass in their respective parishes in memory of the dead and their kin.
“As the pastor of the diocese of Bafoussam, I extend my sincere and personal condolences to the families and loved ones of those who died in this tragedy,” Bishop Dieudonné Watio stated in a condolence message seen by ACI Africa Wednesday, October 30.
“I ask priests in all parishes of the diocese to celebrate Masses for the victims and their families,” the Bishop said and added, “These Masses should be celebrated from October 30 to Saturday, November 2, being the feast of the commemoration of all the faithful departed.”
According to state media, the landslide left dozens killed after their houses were swept away following days of torrential rain in the locality of Gouache in the Bafoussam 3 municipality.
“The houses that collapsed were built on the side of a hill in a risk zone,” the Governor of the West region, Awah Fonka Augustine, has been quoted as telling state media at the scene of the disaster.
Officials and State media including Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV) have reported a death toll of at least 42 people, among them over two dozen children.
According to Bishop Watio, the landslide “tragedy could have been avoided.”
“How could we have allowed families to build houses on a visibly dangerous site?” Bishop Watio wondered in his message read out on the Diocesan Radio in Bafoussam.
“The question we can ask ourselves in the face of such a tragedy is how those responsible for land tenure and urban planning couldn't have anticipated to avoid such a painful disaster,” the Bishop Lamented.
“How could these leaders, trained in disaster prevention, could not have prevented our region from facing such a disaster?” the Cameroonian Prelate further probed and added, “What are the mayors and the urban planning department doing to avoid such disasters?
In his statement, Bishop Watio advocated for preventive strategies saying, “prevention is better than cure.”
“To prevent is to be vigilant, to be vigilant is to stay awake. Is it enough to put a red cross on a constriction undertaken on a visibly dangerous site?” Bishop Watio questioned in reference to the marks put by local council and town planning agents on houses without a building permit or to be demolished.
“On my knees I plead with the heads of the Ministry of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure to play their role fully and honestly in order to prevent us from another possible disaster,” he said.
“I invite Town Planning agents to be more vigilant and conscientious in the way they do their work,” Bishop Watio said.
He further proposed the construction of “modest social housing, but built on safe sites.”
“This disaster reminds us once again that the glory of God is in the living, because our God is a God of the living and not of the dead. Indeed, there is nothing more precious than human life,” he reflected and added, “Let us protect the lives of our fellow human beings.”
He called for responsible leadership saying, “My brothers and sisters, to each of us and more to whom it belongs to manage the city fully and honestly play your roles so that your conscience does not accuse you for not having done the right thing.”
“We must remain vigilant, not wait for a tragedy to happen to take action,” he reiterated.
According to a media report, Cameroon President Paul Biya offered his condolences to the families and disbursed a sum of about USD340,000 to help families of the victims and those displaced.
An inter-ministerial committee has been put in place to evaluate the situation and take necessary action to avoid such disasters in future.
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Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa