Liberia: Atlantic Ocean Washes Away 72 Homes in West Point
West Point, Monrovia – When Patricia Siryon woke up Wednesday, July 31 at 2 am to use the bathroom, her children were covered in water. She screamed to seek her neighbors’ attention but they too were struggling to take their belongings from the water.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected] & Muna Traub, Intern
“I had no idea that the water took away the houses before me, till I came out, I was so confused and just told my children to get through the other door for safety while I helped my neighbors,” Siryon explains.
Pointing to her disarray and extremely wet room, the single mother of five said she was worried that the Atlantic Ocean would make her family homeless.
Sea erosion remains a serious threat for residents of West Point – Monrovia’s biggest slum – as hundreds of homes have already been washed away in the last couple of years.
The National Disaster Agency says safe drinking water, food, mosquito nets, water guide, and blankets are now needed to help the victims.
Wednesday’s disaster saw 72 homes destroyed by sea erosion, and there are also concerns that three fishermen who went on expedition did not return that day.
Seven persons were injured when a wall collapse. They were later rescued by officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP).
Many residents in West Point are fishermen or fish sellers. Siryon canoe was destroyed and she’s now worried about feeding her children and sending them to school.
She raised over L$ 5,000 (USD$25.00) but with the damaged canoe, she’s now clueless about her next move.
Fayiah Johnson and Betty Lamin are also worried. Like Siryon, their eight-bedroom house was wiped away by the sea erosion.
Betty’s shop, which was attached to her house, was washed away. She lost all of her goods while Fayiah’s money exchange-abox and personal effects were lost in the water.
“We don’t have no way to stay; we are presently residing with my mother, the house is small but that is the only way we have for now,” Fayiah said.
“Our concern is to protect the children from the sea because we foresee the taking away this old Kru beach [community].”
The Ministry of Public Works has promised to extend the government’s coastal defense project to the community as a similar project makes an intervention in Popo Beach, New Kru Town.
But in West point, Janet Toe’s home, which was marked by the MPW after the government promised to use rocks as coastal defense, was destroyed on Wednesday.
“My house was marked and now it is gone, I don’t know what my family will benefit most when everything is wiped away,” said Toe, who is now displaced in the community school building.
“My whole house went; my children are safe but all our belongings went except for the bed.”
Thomas Joemah accuses the government including current representative Solomon George of ignoring the plights of dwellers.
“We don’t expect this from this Government because District #7, mainly West Point voted this government hugely. I don’t want to talk about Solomon George because he is not seeking the interest of the district,” said Joemah, whose home was also destroyed by the angry waves.
“If the water takes your home away, people here only keep you for a month and they expect you to leave and move on with life.
“My family is surviving by the grace of God – yesterday, we ate farina because that was what we could afford.”
Rose Granery, a mother of 10 children, lost her second home to the sea erosion on Wednesday. She was already recovering from the loss of her four-bedroom home in last year’s erosion.
Rose and her children are currently residing in a church near the debris of her home. The church building is also under threat from the sea erosion as cracks on the building widen.
Rose said she sold dried fish before the latest disaster. Unfortunately, she couldn’t save her dryer from been taken away by the waves.
Daniel Grant of the Disaster Victims Association of West Point says the organization has been working with many victims but stressed that minimizing disaster requires more awareness.
Grant urged the Government to begin the coastal defense to protect more homes from destruction.
Prince Nagbe, Director of Communication at Ministry of Public says the marking of the homes were in consultation with residents who consented.
According to him, the marking was done to break down homes to connect waterside with West Point.
Meanwhile, National Disaster Management (NDMA) & National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) Joint Rapid Assessment of West Point have found that the sea is fast advancing on Power Plain, Kru Beach, and Fanti Town – the three communities where the 72 homes were washed away by sea erosion.
The NDMA says hundreds of people are currently internally displaced and are squatting in the homes of relatives and friends and community dwellers are apprehensive over the delay of government to construct the coastal defense.