The Sunday before, I was visiting an aunt who lived in Goderich. It was raining heavily, so I decided to spend the night there. The next morning, I was listening to the radio when reports started coming that there had been an incident on Sugar Loaf Mountain. There were different versions coming from different reporters. One station said there was a flood and another said that dirt had covered some houses.
I thought it was a minor incident, and that maybe a neighbour’s house had been damaged. When I tried calling home, everyone’s phone was switched off. I even called my pastor, who was a neighbour and who’d had a fund-raising service on Sunday. But he wasn’t picking up either. I was worried but I did not understand how big the destruction was until I set eyes on the area myself.
When I arrived on the scene [at Mortomeh] that morning, it was raining lightly but there was a heavy mist. I heard a lot of cries and there were so many people outside, everywhere. Some were rolling on the ground and crying. Some boys were muddy. I found out later they’d been trying to rescue people. Some people were bloody. The whole time I was thinking about my family.
As I got closer, I saw that the whole area had changed. It was as if the ground had changed position. If you were not used to the area, you would not be able to tell where the houses used to stand. Where our house used to stand was among the hardest-hit areas. We used to live in a zinc house but it was decently built. When I saw what was left, I knew that no one could have survived.
I lost four of my family: my younger sister, my big sister, my brother’s wife, and their child; my brother was not at home. We lost everything in the mudslide.
That day, the other survivors and I were taken to a camp nearby. Eventually, we were taken to the camps at Old School Night Club. We were told we would be given places at 6 Mile but that didn’t happen. The only thing that happened was that we received money from the government to rent a place.
Starting over was not easy. I constantly thought about my family. I used to have dreams of them every night. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I imagine that my sister Mariama is there, saying things to me. It’s as if I can hear her voice. That’s how much I miss her. I will never forget that day and I will think about it every day until I die.
I am doing a food and beverages [course] at the YWCA. I also sell groundnuts as a side business to raise extra money for me and my child. It is not much, but it gets us by until I can graduate and get a good job or start my own catering business. My child and I live with an aunt in another area of Mortomeh now. Life has not been easy but as long as there is life, there is hope. I hope and pray that God will touch the heart of people to understand our situation and come to our aid.
Photo: Joshua Yarjah