“Kadiatu, water is everywhere in our house,” my sister said as she woke me up.
It was the night before the mudslide, 13 August 2017. It had been raining heavily in Mortomeh. I had lived there for almost a year, but never had I seen so much rain, so heavy and continuous. My husband was away upcountry during the time, and I was at home with our two children, my sister and her family.
We took it as a joke when we first started carrying water outside in buckets. But as we spent the second half of the night also bailing out water, we realised things were getting out of hand. My brother-in-law eventually came outside and dug little troughs around the house to allow the water to flow to the gutter outside—the biggest in the area. The water in gutter was flowing so fast and with so much power.
Around 6 or 7am, I became very sleepy. I was just about to be carried away by sleep when my sister woke me again. The amount of rainwater in the house terrified me. It was still raining, still dark and foggy outside.
My brother-in-law suggested we stay indoors and continue bailing. I went outside. A few moments later, the lights went out. Through the fog, I saw big, heavy rocks rolling down with tremendous force. By now, all my family had also come outside.
We watched in horror as mud covered the forest around our neighbourhood like a blanket. Cables and poles fell to the ground. Despite the rain, the air was filled with dust. There was total confusion, people shouting and crying and running. Nobody looked out for anybody else. Everyone was trying to save themselves.
At that point, I was certain death had come for us. Our neighbourhood was covered in slush. People were getting stuck in moving mud. To this day, I don't know what saved us. I just know we were directed to the community pipeline route, which we followed to Guma Gate junction.
When we got to the junction, we saw some people rushing back. We too rushed back. At the scene, I saw the bodies of my friends and neighbours being pulled out from the mud.
We were advised not to go into our house, to go back to the junction. There was a chance the hill would collapse again. I am glad that we listened, because that’s exactly what happened. And our house was not spared.
I will remember the horrible things that happened to my best friends and neighbours till my last breath. We lost all our properties. We didn’t even have clothes to wear, except what people gave us. Not long after the incident, things took a bad turn between my husband and me. He is no longer with me. I don’t like to talk about it because it is more heartache for me.
I am tired of doing nothing and having no one to turn to. I only survive because of the good people who help me. Sometimes, I assist around the area with small jobs. I am asking the government to help us. I want my life to be better like it was before.
Photo: Mahawa Kamara. Cover graphic: Sunil Krishnan