President Julius Maada Bio has joined fellow Sierra Leoneans to observe the one-year commemoration ceremony for victims of the August 14, 2017 mudslide and flooding at Mortomeh in the Regent Community, near Freetown.
The interfaith service, which took place at the St. Paul’s Catholic Church near the disaster area, was also attended by the Honourable Vice President, Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, Her Excellency the First Lady Mrs Fatima Bio, Cabinet Ministers, other stakeholders, survivors and families who lost their loved ones.
President Bio, while delivering his statement, said that on the back of memories of the civil war and the Ebola, the mudslide was another sad chapter in the history of the country as it claimed the lives of more than 500 Sierra Leoneans whilst over 8,000 others were sent to displaced camps during the raining season. He described the incident as a terrible tragedy, whose impact would not be forgotten so easily.
“Today, we remember all our brothers, sisters and children who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy. We all acknowledge the terrible pains, the trauma, the grief and deep sadness of all families and friends who lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy. Let us all keep the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers and may the Good Lord prevent this country from such disasters,” he said.
President Bio also assured that his government, a God-fearing one, would continue to respond to the needs of the survivors as they coped on a daily basis to come to terms with the terrible loss, adding that as a way of remembering the victims of the tragedy, his government had decided to convert the tragic scene into a National Tourist Memorial Park for the reflection of all the victims of the disaster.
As part of his government’s proactive approach, President Bio stated that he had already set up an inter-agency mudslide committee, chaired by the Chief Minister Professor David John Francis, which through a transparent process of engagement with all the relevant stakeholders and affected communities had successfully completed the payment of financial incentive package of Le 8 Billion. The payment was to resettle families of the 86 houses in the demarcated Red Zone, provide humanitarian relief supplies to cater for their immediate needs as well as complete the orderly demolition of all 86 houses marked in the demarcated. He added that his government would continue to take more proactive measures to ensure that people were protected from future harm.
“This is not the time to apportion blame and responsibility as to whether this terrible tragedy was in fact a natural disaster that we had no control over or that it was a manmade disaster. As a proactive and responsive government, my cabinet has endorsed the establishment of a National Disaster Preparedness and Management Agency. As we are the third most vulnerable country in the world at risk to adverse climate change, we have to prepare ourselves with this,” he said.
The President ended by thanking all those who supported the country in diverse ways during and after the tragedy, especially the international partners and friends, the military and security agencies, the medical team and professionals, the media and the brave men and women who served as the first responders in supporting the affected communities.