February 8, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
History may repeat itself if residents of communities living around the Aberdeen and Old Railway Line bridges are not evacuated ahead of another flooding similar to the 16 September, 2015 that left scores of people dead and homeless in Freetown.
Over the years, people have been in the habit of banking water flowing underneath bridges to enable them construct houses nearby, completely oblivious of the looming danger such may pose.
Allieu Jalloh, a resident of Old Railway Line, told this reporter last Thursday that make-shift structures under or very close to the Old Railway Line Bridge may collapse if it rains heavily, adding that that might lead to loss of lives and properties.
He said people who live in the said disaster prone areas have been reluctant to relocate to safer communities, despite being warned by the Disaster Management Department at the Office of National Security (ONS).
Isatu Turay, a mother of two, whose make-shift structure is very close to the Aberdeen Bridge, said that is the only place for her to do business.
“It is very difficult to get a place nowadays in Freetown to sell your product. Sometimes, if you build very close to the road officials of SLRA [Sierra Leone Road Authority] will say it’s a ‘right of way’ and this is the only place available to me because if I don’t do what I am doing, my children will not survive,” she explained.
Meanwhile, people who have constructed make-shift houses under or very closed to the two bridges refused to talk to this reporter, apparently fearful that the government would forcibly evict them when this report breaks.
Research Officer at the Disaster Management Department in the ONS, Nathaniel Kaiba Kamara, said his office had received complaints from people that most of those who were asked to relocate to safer areas have since returned.
He added that his team had visited Aberdeen Bridge and assessed the potential risk of living under or close to the seaside pose to residents.
“We will have to visit the bridge at Old Railway Line to also ask all those people who are living very close to, or under the bridge, to move out. We always want to prevent disaster before it happens,” he said.
Environment and Social Officer at the Freetown City Council (FCC), Sulaiman Zainu Parker, said council was very concerned about the safety of people who are living in disaster prone areas, adding that they intend to persuade them to relocate to more secured areas.
“We shall have to engage the councilor of the two wards to see what we will do to ask those people out,” he said.
Make-shift structures under the Old Railway Line Bridge in Freetown