By: Foday Manneh
In the Upper River Region of the Gambia, several communities have been affected by heavy rainfall in the early hours of Thursday morning. Families are displaced and made homeless, homes and valuables are damaged or destroyed, and graves of dead bodies are exhumed in some communities following the downpour.
The heavy rainfall, which caused the flash flooding started around 3:00 am — causing havoc and destruction in many communities and homes in URR. The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) in URR has assessed 15 communities at the time of this report, and among the worst-affected districts in the region are Wuli, Sandu, and Tumana.
The flooding severely affected Sutukonding and Kolibantang villages in Wuli West — damaging their lives and livelihoods. By extension, it gave Sutukonding an unpleasant experience as some buried dead bodies were exhumed from their graves due to the floods, which affected the community’s cemetery.
“We have two dead bodies who died in Spain and were buried some time ago with their coffins, and the floods removed these two. The flood destroyed the cemetery fence. One of the coffins was carried off by the flood, and we have to get it back and rebury it,” Muhammed Kijera told TAT.
Muhammed added, “We have other dead bodies buried a few weeks ago, the flood removed them from their graves, and we have to rebury those too properly. It is such an unbelievable scene.”
In Sare Demba Toro in Sandu, TAT discovered that many animals, such as cattle, donkeys, and sheep, died in flood, which may delay the community member’s plans for early farming cultivation.
Another native of Sandu in Kuwonko village, Madiba Darboe, is devastated by the destruction the flood has caused on his newly built house, which he said would retard his plans for this year’s farming if help does not arrive soon.
“I built a new house recently, but the water has demolished half of it. The houses we are using have also flooded. This is the first rain, and if that destroys, then that would make our farming difficult, and we don’t hope to see that. I need help to finish my house, which can help me focus on farming,” Darboe said.
In other communities like Tambasansang in Tumana, many families have sleepless nights, struggling to address this catastrophe.
“Our community hospital fence was destroyed and caused erosion on our roads. Some families had their animals perish in flood, while other valuables like food items were lost,” Kissima Sisawo accounted.
Weather experts had predicted that this year’s rainy season would likely be above average to the very likely average rainfall for July-August-September (JAS) over the Gambia.
The interpretation of that means the country’s average is expected to have rainfall quantity equal to or more than 900mm in the western sector of the country. Amounts in the 700 – 850mm range are likely over the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, due to numerous factors, we hear similar stories of flooding every year when heavy downpours are recorded in URR, and many other communities are likely to be faced with the same problems before this rainy season is over.
An environmentalist who has given a study of the factors causing the reoccurring and increased flooding in URR, Muhammed Hydara, blamed deforestation, lack of drainage system, and climate change as the main factors attributed to this repeating disaster in the region.
“Deforestation reduces natural water absorption capacity, while inadequate drainage systems hinder water flow. My hypothesis posits that the absence of a drainage system on the North Bank road significantly contributes to the flooding in URR. A crucial observation on the map is the area marked “X,” which appears to serve as a potential entry point for runoff,” Hydara explained.
“There is a noticeable lack of trees or vegetation between the North Bank road and the nearby villages, failing to divert the runoff water from the highway effectively,” he added.
However, in response to these crises, the Basse Area Council, through the Chairman, Mahamadou Ceesay, issued a press statement assuring swift action to remedy the situation while providing sustainable solutions to avoid the reoccurrence of such disaster.
The Chairman called for all natives of the region, both within and outside, to join hands in helping the victims cope with the current difficulties.