Sierra Leone News: At least six Dead, Hundreds Homeless after Flash Floods Hit Freetown
By Stephen V. Lansana
Flash floods in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, on Friday August 2, 2019, have left at least six people dead, dozens injured and hundreds of residents made homeless.
The death toll was expected to rise as emergency services battled to reach people in hard-hit areas including Culvert Community, Kroo Bay community, Bathurst community, Susan’s Bay, Kissy Brook, Lower Lumley, Malama, Sheriff Drive Campbell Street and Motormeh, among others. The rains which lasted for five hours destroyed many houses.
The Coroner Technician, Connaught Mortuary, Mr. Sinneh Kamara confirmed that there are six dead at the moment — two from Kroo Bay, two from Bathurst community at Regent, one from Alpha Morlai in Kissy Community and one from Moa Wharf. The deaths include five men and a woman.
He said, “We are expecting more dead because I have got different alerts from the toll free line 117. But our immediate constraint is fuel for the Ambulance.”
The Head of Outpatient Department, Connaught Hospital, Prof. Dr Adekunle Kazeem confirmed that four patients — three men and a woman — with injuries as a result of the flash floods are admitted at the hospital. He said that three of the patients suffered serious injuries.
“We are forming a committee to address this can of thing. We need emergency drugs to be on the ground, so that it will be ready available whenever such disaster occurs. We need to inform all the concerned units including the surgeons including the nurses because they are the ones who clean patients and transfer them from different place as the case maybe,” he said.
He added that the committee will be meeting regularly to ensure that everything is in place because they do not know when this can of flood will occur again.
The Director of Disaster Management Department, Office of the National Security (ONS), John B. Rogers said that during the rains, they received several distress calls from residents in Freetown. “The first distress call that we receive is from Culvert Community in which they said that the entire community which has about 9000 residents has been flooded. Just after that, I received another stress call from someone in Bathurst village in Regent that a fence hah collapse on one zinc structure leading to the dead of one person as of that time. Also, in Moyeba Community, because of the frequent stone mining in that community, the soil particles have been losing. So, there was a slight mudslide which fell on four houses in which four people were serious wounded and they were taken to the hospital,” Rogers said.
He disclosed that as they were fighting with the flooding, three houses were on fire simultaneous along Fourah Bay Road.
He said that he is not surprised for seeing flooding in Freetown because it is as a result of climate change vulnerability, adding that the weather has changed.
“In the month of June, we had very little rain. But the weather forecast for West Africa stated that we are going to have too much rains for the months of July, August and September. So, I was not surprised to see this high level of rain impacting many communities,” he said. “Over 10 communities were affected especially communities regarded as the most vulnerable communities based on the assessment that we have done.”
Rogers said that, as a result of the flash floods; they held multi-stakeholders engagement which includes international partners and Freetown City Council, and they have formed five groups — health, sanitation sector, and water lavatories, among others. He stated that there were toilets and bridges that collapse during flash floods which has negative impact on human security protection. “So, we have formed five groups which cut across Ministries Departments and Agencies, US Specialized Agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), among others, so that all of us will contribute towards disaster risk reduction in the country,” he said.
He said that they are going to embark on an in-depth analysis of the damage that happened today, taking into consideration the human population that was impacted, damaged properties, and infrastructures that were destroyed as a result of this flooding, adding that they have divided the city into five starting from Waterloo.
He added that the groups will look at thematic areas which include health, sanitation, and water, among others.
The director said that they are working with the Engineering Regimen of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), and FCC, adding that they have identified the flash points for flooding, those are areas that we are trying to ensure that the drainages are cleared to ensure that waters can flow easily into the Atlantic Ocean. He said that over time, people have inculcated the habit of throwing garbage into drainages thereby causing major flooding in Freetown. “Could you imagine how the city will look like if we are not cleaning the drainages,” he asked rhetorically.
The Meteorological Agency has warned that there will be flash floods this month.
This is not the first time such disaster in occurring in the country.
On August 14, 2017, a devastating landslide and flooding disaster ripped through Freetown. This caused millions of dollars of destruction and damage to buildings, infrastructure, and a reported loss of hundreds of lives.
After the landslide, the World Bank, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), and the European Union commissioned analytical studies of the landslide and geology of surrounding areas. While there was no single cause for the landslide, there were many contributing factors.
According to the study, a common threat to Freetown is the rapid rate of urbanization, coupled with the increased rate of deforestation. And because of these two factors — housing development and deforestation — soil integrity and its ability to absorb rain during high rainfall was weakened which increased the risk of disaster.