The Sierra Leonean president Julius Maada Bio participated Tuesday in a ceremony in Freetown on the occasion of the 1st anniversary of the floods which had made more than a thousand deaths in 2017 and promised to build a memorial on the site of the disaster.
Some 500 people, mostly in black and white, gathered in a church in Regent, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Freetown, where heavy rains had caused the partial collapse of a mountain on the night of 14 August 2017.
“We are here to witness the pain and trauma of the landslide tragedy,” said President Bio, who took office in April.
I still live in the area of the disaster because the help provided by NGOs and the government was not enough to start a new life elsewhere
On August 14, 2017, after several days of heavy rain, a section of Sugar Leaf Hill on the outskirts of the capital Freetown broke away. Muddy torrents and huge blocks of stone had rushed down the steep slope, washing away the Regent neighbourhood houses below or covering them entirely with reddish earth.
One year later, residents are still facing the consequences of the disaster.
Olivia Cile, who lost her husband and two children in the landslide, says she is “always scared when it rains at night as if the memories of the disaster haunt me”.
“I still live in the area of the disaster because the help provided by NGOs and the government was not enough to start a new life elsewhere,” she told AFP.
Over the past 15 years, four major floods have affected more than 220,000 people in Sierra Leone and caused severe economic damage, according to the World Bank.
The one in August 2017 was the deadliest, with an official toll of 1,141 dead and missing.
By 2021, the country will need some $82.41 million (€70 million), or 2.2% of GDP, to recover from the disaster, including the reconstruction of six medical centres and 59 schools, according to the World Bank. Sierra Leone is ranked among the poorest countries in the world.