Due to the African monsoon, the climate in Ivory Coast is tropical, with a dry season from December to February and a wet season from April to October, during this period, the rains are torrential and windy in several districts including Abidjan while San Pédro and Tabou in the extreme west record heavy downpours in November. Although this situation has not led to an alarming casualty toll, there have been cases of loss of properties, building collapse and other structural defects. In addition, whenever rain occurs, roads become inaccessible for commuters for many hours.
The city of Abidjan has several risk areas during the rainy seasons which pose serious threats to populations. According to the statistics given by reliefweb.int, approximately 80,000 people are threatened by floods during the rainy season. Rainfall is more abundant along the coast, ranging between 1,500 and 2,500 millimetres (60 and 100 inches) per year, whereas it is less intense inland, ranging from 1,200 to 1,500 millimetres (47 to 60 inches) per year, though it does reach 2,000 millimetres (80 inches) in the small western mountainous area.
Poor urbanisation or climate change, which factor is responsible for the recurrent flooding cases in the capital city?
According to the Department of National Meteorology of Ivory Coast (SODEXAM) “The rainy season takes place usually from April to June in the southern part of the country, and from July to September in the North. There is a short dry season in August and September, then a short rainy season in October until November. Surprisingly, the city experiences excessive rainfall during the dry season, proving the said weather forecast fairly unreliable and these irregularities are attributed to climate change. Downpours in the last quarter of 2021 left the populace in awe as rainfall no longer follows its usual pattern. In light of this climate change, people no longer follow the normal rhythm of the rainy season including the warning of a possible rainfall given by the meteorology authorities.
Unfortunately, we tend to hold nature accountable for the numerous flooding recorded yearly, therefore, allowing its continuity instead of providing solutions. Many homes have been ravaged by heavy downpours and thunderstorms, however, Meteo channels extend focus on weather situations, while less concentration is placed on the authorities’ failure to prioritise the reparation of worn-out pipes and the construction of new drainage systems. Some canals have been transformed into dumping sites, houses with no plan and foundation built with makeshift material leading to building collapse and above all settlement of people in high-risk areas, actually paves the way for disasters caused by torrential rainfall.
In 2020, the rain which started in March intensified in the month of June and caused severe damages. Among all, the disaster that occurred at Kafala in Anyama left the whole country in dismay. A landslide resulted in 14 fatalities and left several injured. Despite the sensitization by the government warning the population against risk areas, some residents still occupy zones that are at risk of flooding due to abject poverty and costly house rents.
In Abidjan, there are 10 main communes which are Cocody, Treichville, Adjamé, Abobo, Yopougon, Marcory, Koumassi, Plateau, Port Bouet and Attecoubé. It is important to note that the choice of living in a particular commune depends on various factors such as poverty, the proximity to the place of work and the high cost of house rent. The commune of Adjamé and Attécoubé are two neighbouring communes which also experienced flooding incidents including building collapse and landslides. In 2018, invited to the Ivorian National TV (RTI 1), the head of the Ivorian civil protection confirmed a total of 19 fatalities and a lot of damage after the torrential rains. Floods and landslides resulted in eighteen (18) fatalities in Abidjan in June 2018. The landslide that occurred at Santé 3, a slum in Attécoubé resulted in two (2) fatalities. Prior to these events, the country had experienced a long dry season, so the intensity of the rain was very high, thus causing damage. Undoubtedly, the commune of Yopougon is the most affected area in Abidjan, with many flood prone-zones. The situation seems difficult to curtail as many locations within the commune are flooded during downpours leading to a frequent rescue and evacuation mission by the emergency responders (GSPM).
Between June-July 2021, rainfalls recorded resulted in terrible flooding incidents and twenty (20) fatalities in Abidjan. In the commune of Port-Bouet, over four hundred (400) families were victims of flooding and decided to lay siege on the cemetery of the commune as a makeshift shelter. This tends to be a symbolic way of challenging the government and requesting help. The commune of Port-Bouet stopped experiencing flooding after a disaster that happened in 2021. In contrast, Treichville, Marcory and Plateau benefited from the urbanisation carried out by the government. Treichville is said to be the home of veteran citizens and has the best drainage system after the Plateau that harboured most of the companies and ministries in the country. The measures and efforts of the municipal authorities of Koumassi have helped them overcome flooding for the past two years.
Conclusively, as the country moves towards another season of rainfall, it is expedient to make precautionary plans to avoid falling victim to the numerous hazards accompanying the rainy season. The best way to achieve this is to stay updated by major weather news channels for forecasts on rain habits, flood prone areas and make adjustments to commuting plans as much as possible.