On the day of the fire, I had to go to the hospital. I had typhoid and malaria. I needed help.
When I was returning, I stopped at a field half-a-mile from my house. It was then that I heard people shouting and screaming. I ran home. Many of the zinc structures were already on fire. My own home and nearby houses were completely engulfed. There was nothing I could do.
I rushed to the house where my mother, younger sister, niece, and nephew lived. Their house was about three hundred metres away. The fire had not reached them, and we were able to pull out some of her property––a box of clothes, some kitchen utensils, and a rubber chair.
But everything we saved, we lost almost immediately. Some people who came to ‘help’ us stole our property.
I had come to Freetown from Port Loko to make a living. I had a successful business. I sold used clothes, I sold recharge cards, and I charged mobile phone batteries. I lost all of that. I lost my house, I lost my television, I lost the clothes, bags and shoes I had bought to sell, and I lost all the business money I kept in my house. Everything got burnt. I was left with only the clothes that I was wearing.
I now live in a shelter. It stands where my house once I stood. I now help my brother run his betting business. It earns me Le 10,000 per day [approximately $1]. I use that to support myself and help my mother, younger sister, niece and nephew.
I am thankful to God for sparing my life. I am also thankful to the government and the goodwill organisations who helped set up the shelter where we live. I have learnt the lesson never to keep money or properties of high value at home as long as I live in Susan’s Bay.
I want to rent a house outside Susan’s Bay. I hope the government will relocate us. I would like to build my business again.
Photograph: Suphian Bangura