Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 August 2019:
Many parts of Freetown – the capital of Sierra Leone, are today under several feet of water, following several hours of rainfall which according to our correspondent in the city, started in the early hours of this morning.
In the mountainous village of Regent, there are reports of huge cracks opening up on the hills, reminiscent of the causes of the 14 August 2017 mudslide, which took the lives of thousands of people living on the valley.
The country’s office of national security has been informed, and are believed to be taking precautionary measures to relocate residents from the areas at risk of another deadly mudslide.
This morning’s heavy downpour has left several people trapped in their vehicles as well as their homes, with little if any emergency assistance in sight, as could be seen in some of the pictures and videos below.
An SOS call for help was issued in the Blackhall area of Kissy in the far east of the city this morning, where several people are believed to be trapped under several feet of water.
Thousands of people living in the impoverished slum community of Kroo Bay, have been left homeless as their tin shacks are washed away. Two people are so far reported dead.
The perimeter wall of the country’s seaport – the Queen Elizabeth Water Quay in Cline Town, Freetown, has been breached by massive flow of water.
Several shipping containers have tipped over, and there are fears for the lives of many dock workers that are yet to be accounted for.
Although efforts are being made by the government and the Freetown City Council to ensure that the city’s drainage systems are cleared every Saturday, there are serious concerns that the rapid construction of roads and houses on the outskirts of the city, is now causing major environmental impact. Billions of Leones are spent every month by the government on national cleaning.
Heavy rainfall is dragging tons of soil removed from construction sites, and carried away as mud into the city’s drainage system, causing serious blockage, as well as deposited on roads and private properties.
Also, the inability of the capital’s residents to end their love affair with plastics, and the inability of the authorities to deal with the problem posed by the dumping of plastic waste into the drainage system, is now costing lives.
Four people have been reported dead in Bathurst, when a wall collapsed due to the heavy rain.
“Heavy rains in Freetown, flooding in most places. No early warning signs, no information on extreme weather events, no preparedness or adaptation measures. What is our environment sector doing in this country? Stakeholders need to be accountable. So much corruption and irresponsibility. No more time for lip service. We need answers,” says one angry resident of Freetown this afternoon.
Freetown City Council has issued this warning:
“Any disaster as a result of the heavy down pour of rain, kindly contact Freetown City Council Response Team on the following numbers: 031 016647; 076 933612; 079 173 474; 077 731 980; 076 780 287; 076 933 625; 076 232 608.
Please God save our country from any kind of disaster.
Heavy rainfall, a precursor to Mudslide. Is Sierra Leone prepared? During one of my many regular evidence-based academic research to write opinion pieces for The Sierra Leone Telegraph from Philadelphia in The United States of America, I accidentally came upon a ripe case of urgency for Sierra Leone, yet again, to not only reminisce about an awful event that happened not too long ago, but to urge the government to set up some kind of mechanism as a way of national – albeit, governmental preparedness, in case, just in case it (Ebola), were to raise it’s ugly head once again in Sierra Leone.
To my amazement, it was Ebola, but only this time, it was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Central Africa, far away from the shores of Sierra Leone. After the said piece, I noticed some movement in the direction I had indeed advocated in my piece. This may have been a total coincidence; I tend to believe, nevertheless, some degree of efforts and strategies were implemented henceforth.
What are the chances of that happening, taking a cue from a newspaper article, zero. I would think, however, that the content of my article had absolutely nothing to do with Government and MDA’s implementation of strategies and modalities to safeguard the people of Sierra Leon,e if there were any re-emergence of the much dreadful Ebola decease.
Indeed, it is the government’s cardinal duty and foremost moral obligation to safeguard it’s citizens at all cost. No urging from any quarter should suffice. But here we go again, the current incidence of heavy rainfall, which is preliminarily a precursor to mudslide is once again inundating the sorry state of affairs in the country.
Now, I know the government or anyone else cannot control the heavens, but emergency preparedness is in order. The Telegraph and other newspapers’ stories with their attendant features of heavy rainfall, people being stranded, houses and automobiles been swept away by the unrelenting rain and mudslide from the incessant building construction going on everywhere, which are not supposed to be built where they are built, and largely unregulated and not designed to any specification, is another heart-wrenching episode that Sierra Leone has been enduring from time immemorial.
My only hope now is that the government saw it fit to put its Environmental Protection Agency to good use before this horrific rain came down from the heavens. If they didn’t, then no lesson was learnt from the previous incidence from the last government when it had to endure similar episode of national natural disaster.
To be honest with ourselves, Freetown is a lost city. The City in its current standard of development cannot cope nor manage the different problems facing it, starting from overpopulation, century old infrastructures, no town planning, no effective governmental institutions to enforce life saving precautionary rmeasures and the dilemma of being a hilly peninsular.
The mistakes started in the early seventies and has never been attended to and now I’m afraid it’s too late. The money to invest in order to change things around not available. What we are capable of doing is an emergency action plan:
– massive and aggressive reforestation of the hills
– abolish all stone extractions in the hills
– no cutting of trees nor grasses
– breakdown all half-backed structures on the hillsides
– no new building structures at venerable areas**
– City Cleaning, City Cleaning, City Cleaning and City Cleaning!!!
– City council committee only for the implementation of the outlined measures
Our government should engage the few environmental officials, engineers and architects to come up with immediate solutions as to declare the no-go areas for new infrastructures.
For 5 years Home Leone has been building a pilot “Destiny town” at 4 mile, Newton. Over 200 people left the slums in June and July to a new sustainable life with low cost housing, jobs, power, water education and health bound together with skills and personal development training. Living in safe and new shelter, the residents cried today for the suffering of the friends and family they left behind across Kroo Bay, Cobalt, CKG, Cockle Bay and more. They expressed such gratitude for the opportunity. What a contrast and shows what is possible in Sierra Leone, even with Home Leones small resources.
This can be urgently replicated across the nation. Home Leones goal to upgrade and relocate people from slums is now proven and simply needs investment. Come and see what it possible, you will be inspired. 56 low cost homes, livelihood and a school opening on 9 September is the start of a movement that can change a nation. These floods demand we redouble our efforts to transform/relocate these slums to vibrant sustainable communities.
As I became a man in the Siaka Stevens/Momoh era,even without any technical knowhow [which I still don’t have]I was sure that Freetown needed restructuring to facilitate a good drainage system,since every rainy season resulted in ditches overflowing, causing some streets to be flooded,sometimes dangerously.And this is a period when the population of Freetown was much smaller with a good chunk of open spaces.
Now Freetown must rank as one of the most congested cities in the world with successive governments doing nothing about it,relying on the nebulous excuse that the rebel war forced people into the city after their homes in the interior were destroyed.
But the government does need to get off its backside to do something about our overpopulated city if for no reason other than that most of greater Freetown is coastal and is beginning to witness the effects of global warming without the wherewithal to cope with any global warming related disasters.Unless something is done forthwith, mudslides,flooding and other melancholic occurences shall become part of our daily life – reducing us to tears each time because we don’t use our faculties,and leadership is conspicuously absent.
Typically when disaster strikes the Sierra Leonean summons divine intervention – “God dae”, ar leff me case gee God”.What a pity? Is this not defeatism?
What is immediately needed is a huge budget to bring in well qualified engineers to help restructure Freetown to cope with the vicissitudes of the future occasioned by the reality of global warming.Part of the budget of course should be designated for the compensation of residents whose property may be affected.If any government building is affected,President Bio should see it as an opportunity to relocate it outside of Freetown – one definite way of dicongesting Freetown.
Let us stand up for our city,only summoning divine help when we are at our wits end.We have no time to be slow in the head and become a laughing stock.
May God save mama Salone.