King Jimmy environs an accident waiting to happen
By Regina Pratt and Moses A. Kargbo
Some concerned business people and squatters around the King Jimmy market environs say they are now living in constant fear of an imminent disaster of a greater magnitude waiting to hit the community due to the authorities’ failure to reconstruct the collapsed bridge and the damaged road five months after the tragedy that claimed the lives of scores of people.
Residents and business people are particularly worried that the inception of the raining season some four to five months from now might spell more danger for the community as the soil holding what has remained of the damaged King Jimmy market on Wallace Johnson Street might be washed away by rain water thus weakening the foundation of nearly buildings, including the country’s biggest referral hospice, the Connaught Hospital.
Youths around the King Jimmy community had blamed the activities of the National Power Authority (NPA), Sierratel and the Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC) in the area to have been responsible for the landslide that caused the collapse of the historic King Jimmy bridge on the night of Thursday 8 August 2013, leaving in its wake at least 10 people dead.
The three named parastatals, the youths alleged, were in the habit of digging under the bridge to do repairs (in the case of NPA and Sierratel) and mend damaged pipes (in the case of Guma Valley), and that in most cases, the work is left incomplete without refilling the hovels being dug.
General Manager of NPA, Dr. Zubairu Kalokoh, who visited the disaster scene, was more concern about the institution losing six out of 15 megawatts of electricity supply being transmitted through cables damaged as a result of the landslide.
President Ernest Bai Koroma also visited the scene to sympathise with the bereaved, describing the incident as unfortunate for people to have lost their lives “in such a miserable way”.
In spite of all this, the authorities are yet to announce plans to rebuild the colonial bridge and reconstruct the damaged road, which has left the entire quarter of Wallace Johnson Street cut off from vehicular traffic.
A fish trader, Mabinty Kamara, told Concord Times that since the former Director-General of the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA), Munda Rogers, visited the accident scene last year, nothing has been done to repair the damaged road.
She called on the authorities to take immediate steps to forestall a bigger disaster in the future.
A senior staff at the National Registration Secretariat, which stands few yards from the disaster area, said they too are concerned about the present condition of the area and hoped the authorities will do something urged to avert another tragedy in the community.
“Neglecting this kind of danger may lead to the collapse of nearby structures and the loss of lives,” she said. “We are now in the dry season, so something urgent must be done before the rains begin to fall.”
The collapsed bridge had once served as a transit point from the King Jimmy Market harbour to the historic Cotton Tree. The area was said to be the home of the great Temne Chief, King Jimmy, before the colonial period.