January 19, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
Four communities in Freetown – Upper Fullah Street, Mount Aureol, Rock-Stone and Mountain Cut – are at risk of a tragic disaster if nothing is done by the authorities to remove big stones (rocks) that could roll and cause destruction to property and humans in their path anytime soon.
One of the communities, Rock-Stone, has a population of approximately 3,000, predominantly women and children.
Chairman of Rock-Stone Development Organization, Buya Kamara, told Concord Times the stones have hung in the Upper Street community since colonial era, noting that people decided to risk living in the community because landlords demand exorbitant rent, often in United States dollars.
“People pay reasonable amount of money for house rent here [at Rock-Stone] and we have been advising them not to construct houses closer or under the stones because we are quite aware of the disaster they pose. However, because they have been accusing us that we are barricading them from constructing houses closer to the stones because we have got places to build our houses, we stopped telling them not to do so,” he disclosed, adding ominously that if the stones roll they would destroy houses in the Upper Fullah Street, Mount Aureol, Rock-Stone and Mountain Cut communities.
Kamara further disclosed that they have raised some money to pay labourers to remove the stones, and therefore called on the government to help them save lives in the four communities.
A suckling mother, Isatu Kamara, whose house is perilously close to the rooks, said she seldom sleeps at night, fearful that the stones might roll and kill the entire household.
She added that their children play very close to the rocks, which is very risky, and called on the government to help them remove them.
Research Officer at the Office of National Security (ONS), Nathaniel Kaiba Kamara, said the stones have been exposed because of human activities like the construction of houses and backyard gardening, admitting that they now expose serious threat to human lives in the four communities.
He said the ONS would soon embark on a risk assessment before a decision is taken.
Asked if the ONS, which has a Disaster Management Department, would relocate residents after the assessment, he said relocation would be the last resort because “anytime you plan to relocate people from communities, human rights issues for the affected population will come up”.
He disclosed that this year the ONS is set to increase the number of volunteer groups to reach new communities and give feedback on signs of looming disaster so that they could promptly intervene.
“There are indicators that ONS considers before declaring that an area is disaster prone, which include catchment population, existing facilities like roads, health centers, electricity, schools, etc., waste disposals, physical hazards, water source. So it is the level of exposure of a catchment population to hazards and all these other conditions that will attract our action,” he said.