The shocking earthquake that struck the city of Freetown, as a result of the heavy downpour in the early hours of Monday 14 August 2017, has left over four hundred people including women and children dead and dozens more trapped under the rubble.
Just like the disastrous earthquake that struck the village of Charlotte on August 10 1945, some 72 years ago, that destroyed a locality known as “Bottom Shekeh” and left many people dead, Monday night’s downpour in Freetown, which Methodologists believed resulted to earthquake has left weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in many communities, especially in the mountainous areas .
Around 6 30AM, in the Regent mountainside community at the foot of Mount Sugar Loaf where the
hill sides have been stripped naked of their precious vital tree covers and dwelling houses built, a mudslide by the hill looking towards Lumley has covered many homes, left over four hundred people dead and dozens more still trapped under the rubble .
According to one eyewitness, during the heavy downpour, the ground shook like an earthquake and few minute later houses were covered. He called the effect devastating. In the west end of the city in the low lying Kaningo and Kamayama areas of Lumley, the death toll is reported to have gone above twenty as makeshift homes lying in the path of the torrential waters swept away.
Survivors wailed uncontrollably. One woman told BBC’s Umaru Fofana that she lost more than 11 family members. One man said, he had lost his wife, mother-in-law and children.
One bereaved father said: My wife is dead. My children are all dead. This morning my children and I talked before I left for work. One of them even chose the socks I should put on."
One Malike explained: “We were inside. We heard the mudslide approaching. We were trying to flee. I attempted to grab my baby but the mud was too fast. She was covered, alive. I have not seen my husband, Alhaji. My baby was just seven weeks old."
Along the new Regent-Grafton highway, boulders were dislodged and in Kossoh Town low lying area, houses were inundated with muddy waters. Two people died at Upper George Brook, Dworzak after a rock collapsed and rolled into their house. The deceased who eyewitnesses believed are husband and wife were sleeping when a rock that was hanging dangerously behind their house fell on them.
The heavy downpour left several houses that are built near the riverside and up the hills in tatters. A two story building that is erected on the riverside threatens to collapse whenever there is a heavy downpour of rain. Residents blame a two-storey that is erected on the riverside for most of the disasters the heavy downpour caused. They said because the house is erected on the riverside, whenever there is a heavy downpour, there is little or no passage for debris from the hills to pass.
Hundreds of people thronged to the Connaught Hospital mortuary to identify their relatives. Latest report was that the death toll had gone beyond 400. This disaster brings once more to the fore the issue of land grabbing, building in disaster prone areas and total disregard for town planning by the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment over the years since the war ended and a large proportion of the provincial population which had sought refuge from the rebels settled in the Western Area.
Meanwhile, people are calling on the government through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to institute measures to stop people from residing in disaster prone areas, as well as implement necessary measures to control environmental disasters in slum areas in Freetown.