I still remember the sound the rocks and trees made when they fell. It was as if bombs were going off. I was 19 years old then and asleep when it started, after three days of intense rainfall.
My little sister was the first to see that our house was flooding. When she woke me, our belongings were floating out of the house. When I put my feet down from the bed, I could feel only water.
I was in shock, thinking that this was happening only to us, but then I heard our neighbours shouting and crying too. Everyone in the community was helpless. At this point, I could see dead bodies floating in the water in front of my house. There were human heads, legs, hands that had been cut off by the trees or rocks falling on them. I keep having flashbacks about it, especially when it rains… I get lost in these thoughts. It’s a life-long consequence.
Houses were destroyed, the Kanigo bridge was broken, everyone was struggling to survive. More than 3,000 people were left homeless and many lost their lives, including my friends and neighbours. I lost my best friend whose body was found hanging on a tree the following morning. Even now, we don’t know how his body got attached to the tree.
I lived with my mum and my little sister, and we lost everything — our television, freezer, electronic player, clothes, and even my school books and uniforms. It took a month before my mum could buy the school items and I missed a lot of classes.
The following morning, temporary homes were set up for us. A medical and search team was sent out to find the missing bodies and provide treatment to those injured. The government as well as humanitarian individuals and organisations donated food items and clothing. That is how we survived.
Since then, 14 August has become an unforgettable date in the community. Every year on this date, residents at Kanigo and Mortomeh make placards and write condolence messages to those who lost their relatives in the disaster. We do a tour around the community and invite pastors and imams to pray for the departed souls.
Every time it rains, especially if it’s in the night, my entire community will stay alert to make sure we’re all safe. We stay awake to check through the windows if the waters have good passage. We check the banking and gutters. This is a story I do not wish to tell for a second time. I only pray that such disasters do not occur again in our lifetime.
Photograph by Cecilia Alice Sesay