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Sierra Leone News: One year on – remembering floods and landslides

Early in the morning on 14 August 2017, after three days of torrential rainfall, devastating floods and mudslides occurred in and around Sierra Leone’s capital city Freetown. Heavy rainfall extended through the country during an especially wet rainy season, causing one of the most deadly and destructive disasters in decades. The mountain valley side slope in the Regent area below Sugar Loaf, the highest peak in the north of the Western Area Peninsula, collapsed and caused a major landslide.
In the Western Area, rainfall totalled 104centimetres since 1 July 2017, nearly tripling the region’s seasonal average. The areas topography when combined with poor infrastructure and ineffective drainage systems exacerbated the destructive behaviour of the mudslide.
The final death toll was estimated at a little over 1,000 and left more than 3,000 people homeless. According to the World Bank Disaster Assessment Report $30 million USD worth of properties were destroyed by the disaster. The disaster affected about 6,000 people of which 1,141 have been declared dead or missing.
Today marks exactly one year since the mudslide and flash flood disaster in Sierra Leone, that left bitter memories in the minds of relatives from Regent, Dworzark, Kaningo, Juba, Colbort and Susan’s Bay.
The government of Sierra Leone declared a mourning period of one week throughout the country to reflect on the loss of lives and property. In the clean-up, hundreds of dead bodies flooded the Connaught Mortuary and were buried during a national ceremony at Waterloo and Kingtom.
One of the victims Alfred Kamara, said, “It was a very sad experience for me personally, because I lost my wife and children.” Kamara said the money that was provided by government in the form of resettlement package was never enough. He said up to this moment he is finding it very difficult to survive, as most of his properties were destroyed by the landslide.
Millions of dollars in donations came into the country in the form of cash and goods from both national and international partners.The Office of the former Vice President, Victor Foh, in collaboration with the Office of National Security collected the donations on behalf of the victims.
Temporary, emergency camps were set up at Old Skool in Hill Station and Juba for victims of the mudslide and floods. Food and shelter were provided for them on a daily basis for two months.The government in collaboration with donor partners mapped out resettlement packages for victims including a cash payment of Le2 million per household for those living at the camps and Le5 million for those outside the camps. Three local construction companies quickly constructed 52 houses for the victims at Mile Six, a place where zinc houses were constructed for the 2015 floods victims.
Another victim Alieu Jah, noted, “The Government said they will construct houses for us, but up to this point we have not seen anything.” He said the government should have designed more sustainable packages for the victims, noting that the resettlement package created by government was not sustainable.
Presently, at the site of the mudslide, the UNOPS and other NGO groups have started planting trees to prevent erosion and make up for the deforestation that occurred over the past ten years. The Ministry of Lands, supervised directly by the Minister, demolished houses and makeshift structures around Mortomeh in the Regent area. The side of the hill has been scarred and remains a natural, frightening reminder of the disaster of 14 August 2017.
By Mohamed Bah
Tuesaday August 14, 2018.

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