FORENSIC INVESTIGATION OF THE LIMBE 2001 FLOOD DISASTER, SOUTH WEST REGION, CAMEROON
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This study sought to explore the root causes of the Limbe 2001 floods disaster. It made use of the forensic approach as use in disaster study relevant to understand the root causes of the disaster. The city of Limbe is hit yearly by floods and landslides, with the disaster of 26th and 27th June 2001 recording 30 deaths, with a total of 330 houses destroyed, affecting 3000 people, after a record breaking rainfall. In order to learn from the deadly 2001 floods that triggered landslide, this work seeks to conduct a forensic investigative study of the flood disaster so as to know the root causes, the environmental, social and economic effects, the socio-economic factors that influenced the disaster and the administrative weaknesses that led to the disaster. The study was conducted in four localities (Mabeta New Layout, Towe, Mbonjo, and Mowoh) for three months and those targeted were those affected and those that witnessed the flooding event. A descriptive cross-sectional research survey method was applied throughout this study, data were collected with the use of questionnaires, field observation, to realize the root causes of the disaster, the environmental, and the socio-economic effect of the disaster and the socio-economic factors that influenced the disaster. Equally other long-term effects were realized with use of questionnaires like the number of deaths recorded, the diseases suffered due to deterioration of health as result of the flood. An interview guide was equally use to investigate the administrative weaknesses that led to the flood disaster. The findings of this study provides an insight understanding of why occurred and the way forward. It was revealed that the root causes were actually rainfall (21%), poor town planning (20%), back flow of water (4%), poor drainage system (21%), nature of terrain (15%), poor construction (5%) and the soil nature of Limbe being loose due to heavy rains actually increased its susceptibility to landslide as result of the 2001 floods. It was equally revealed that the 2001 floods led to huge destruction of properties in the four localities that were hit (Mabeta (23%), Towe (19%), Mbonjo (12%), and Mowoh (11%)), huge loss of lives (Mabeta (23%), Towe (17%), Mbonjo (0%), and Mowoh (0%)), huge loss of livestock (Mabeta (25%), Towe (17%), Mbonjo (14%), and Mowoh (10%)), some infrastructural facilities were slightly shut down for some period of time (Mabeta (11%), Towe (9%), Mbonjo (7%), and Mowoh (5%)), also during the flood disaster the population was in total fear and panic since some people face psychological trauma due to fact that many of them loss their love ones Mabeta (23%), Towe (19%), Mbonjo (13%), and Mowoh (10%)), the population equally suffered from some diseases as a result of deterioration of health Mabeta (12%), Towe (7%), Mbonjo (3%), and Mowoh (0%)), some of these diseases include raches, cholera, typhoid. From the study as well it shows that socio-economic condition (34%), land tenure (34%), lack of necessary information (48%), poor risk perception on floods (49%), poverty (46%), actually influenced the 2001 floods. This susceptibility to 2001 floods alongside the landslide was fostered by human activities and notably house constructions, cutting of the slope for foundation deforestation and poor governance. Due to the fact that these natural causes are unavoidable, emphasis has to be laid on the man-made causes of the flood which can be controlled. These include population growth, disaster risk policies, participatory governance, and poverty pushing people to risky zone. This disaster of course could have been avoided without weak governance and inadequate disaster risk policies. If the natural factors could be perceived as beyond human control, most of the man-made factors could be avoided if disaster prevention policies were implemented. In fact, the authorities acknowledged that Limbe I Municipality was a disaster prone area with high susceptibility to floods and land slide and these areas was officially recognized as risky zone. People were not allocated building permit for any construction works to be carried out around the area
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Floods are natural hazards that have affected human lives since time immemorial. Floods have been considered to be acts of God while flood loses have been classified as acts of man (Tchoua et al., 2001). Globally, over the past 50 years, our scientific knowledge of flood disaster being the fact, that they are one of the most damaging, has grown substantially (White et al., 2001). Between 1998 and 2017 floods were the most frequent type of disasters affecting more than 2 billion people and causing damages worth $ 656 billion (Cutter et al., 2015). According to Kim et al.., 2014, flood is a temporal covering of land by water as a result of surface water escaping from their normal confines or as a result of heavy precipitation. Disaster forensic investigation focuses on the analysis and interaction of risk factors (hazard, vulnerability, exposure, coping capacity) and the identification of underlying risk drivers in order to tackle them through dedicated action (Alcantara et al., 2015). The main aim of forensic investigation of flood disaster and risk is to identify underlying causes in such a way that they are evaluated and addressed (Wisner et al., 2004). There is growing international interest in using forensic techniques to analyze floods and other disasters more scientifically in order to reveal the complex underlying causes and effects that results in the growing disaster loses (Alcantara et al, 2015). Forensic Disaster Investigation can be defined as an approach to studying disasters that aims at uncovering their root causes through in-depth investigation that go beyond the typical reports presented after disasters have occurred which will help build an understanding of how natural hazards do or do not cause disasters (Wenzel et al., 2013).
On the 13th August 2002, Grimma, Saxony in Germany was hit by severe flooding, with water depths of around 3.5m (Siedschlag et al.,2010) where about 1000 inhabitants were evacuated and 150 had to be rescued (Grimma Municipality,2017). The economic losses amounted to over 230 million euros. On the 1st and 2nd June 2013, Grimma, Saxony in Germany was again hit by floods. All residents were evacuated from the historic center. Some of them had to be rescued again (Build et al., 2013). Monetary losses were estimated around 150 million euros. Forensic investigation was applied sequentially to the two flooding event in Grimma; where the risk factors were investigated to identify their contribution to the socio-economic impacts in the affected city. Risk factors were investigated to identify their contribution in increasing or reducing disaster damage, in conjunction with socio-economic on age structure and migration in the mostly affected city of Grimma. Last, the PERC methodology (Venkateswaran et al., 2015) was initially developed and used for analyzing flood events, making this approach suitable for this kind of hazard. Furthermore, it follows a holistic and systematic analysis that include flood damages and impacts data, probably due to their insurance background.
Czech Republic suffered from unprecedented flooding in August 2002 that led to particular damages to structures adjacent to Vltava River in Prague was on an unprecedented scale (Rodda et al., 2005). Forensic investigation was carried out to access whether the flooding was exceptional and to identify the main causes of the structural failure. However, the investigation revealed lack of structural robustness contributed to the disproportionate failure (Faber et al., 2008). Emergency measures included protective barriers, immediate removal of floating debris from bridges, additional anchors for river traffic and movement of people away from endangered areas (Holicky et al., 2009). Despite these measures, damage to infrastructure was on an unprecedented scale. Particularly severe consequences were observed in the historic city of Prague, where recorded levels on the Vltava River were extremely high (Pandey et al., 2001). After the flooding various precautions, such as safety barriers and river management, including construction of polders, modifications of depth, width and roughness of a river channel, were considered to reduce the consequences of future flood events (Kelman et al., 2004).
Theron (2007) indicated that at least 20 countries in Africa were affected by floods in the early 2000s. These countries included Algeria, Berlin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leon, Sudan, Cameroon, Togo and Uganda. Reports estimated that approximately 300 people in 20 countries had died in floods during a period of two (2) months, noting that the inaccessibility of the affected areas had made it difficult to accurately access the death toll.
The frequency of flood disaster occurrence in Cameroon has increased as many parts of the country now experience floods. This can been seen with the recent flooding that took place in July 2022 in some localities in Mutengene and Tiko, which are towns with less frequent occurrence of such disasters Most of the geological related hazards in Cameroon are to the Cameroon Volcanic line (CVL) and floods turn to be one of such hazards (Neba et al., 1999).
On August 15, 2015, Yaoundé experience flooding that killed dozens of people and displaced thousand (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015). According to the Yaoundé city council, over 130 floods have struck the city of Yaoundé from 1980 to 2014 causing 80deaths as well as economic damage (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015). To reduce flood risk in Yaoundé the government of Cameroon built drainage canal networks worth 120 million US dollars, with domestic funding plus funding from African Development Bank. (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015). Douala has equally experienced 300 floods over the past 3 decades claiming 700 lives (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015). To resolve the situation, the authorities built a drainage network worth 183 million US dollars (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015). The first phase of the project in both cities helped to scale down the number of floods from 15 to three annually. But much still remains to be done in both cities through forensic investigation to examine the root causes and socio-economic factors that influence these floods.
The coastal city of Limbe is another geographic site very prone to floods. The city of Limbe is hit yearly by floods and landslides, with the disaster of 26th and 27th June 2001 recording 30 deads, 330 houses destroyed, 3000 people affected, a thousand homeless, and over 18 neighborhoods affected, loses estimated to be about thousands of US dollars (Aka et al., 2001).
Due to the numerous flood events that have been occurring, more emphasis is on disaster response as compared to deep rooted, fundamental or structural causes as well as the resulting from developmental processes and their role in flood disaster risk and disasters (Wisner et al., 2004). The call for multidisciplinary research on flood disaster and inter disciplinary research on flood disaster risk and disasters has been made frequently, as has the call for more development framed, decision based approaches to understanding risk construction (Alcantara et al., 2015). The need for more participatory-action research approaches has often been argued for and yet, despite this and a relatively number of attempts to advance on these fronts, such approaches are still on vast minority. The development sectors and institution that should be involved in promoting risk reduction and control are still not on board.
Although disaster management plans at the local, regional, and national levels are available and are regularly updated annually, they are still not able to manage floods and reduce damages and community vulnerabilities. The few studies so far carried in the area are those characterizing the outcomes of the flood hazards and how vulnerable populations perceive and adapt to flood risk. To fill this gap is imperative to carryout forensic approach to examine the root causes of the 2001 flood disaster, the long and short-term effects that resulted from the flood disaster, the socio-economic factors that influenced the disaster and the administrative weaknesses that led to the 2001 floods. The findings of this research will equally help to strengthen and expand the existing research community and to build a strong in-country capacity of young researchers who may facilitate take-up of the results of forensic investigations in policy and practice. The study will help authorities of the Limbe Councils, government, various stakeholders so as to strengthen their polies on disaster risk management (preparedness, prevention, mitigation, response.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
This research seeks to answer the following questions;
- What were the natural and anthropogenic factors that caused the 2001 flood disaster?
- How did socio-economic factors influence the disaster?
- What were the long-term environmental, social and economic consequences of the 2001 floods?
- How can these disaster risks be avoided or reduced using forensic disaster investigations?