Our Recent Tragic Disasters
The entire nation must have been shocked and overcome with melancholy at the news of the sea disasters off our coast when an allegedly grossly overloaded boat capsized in rough seas between Shenge and Tombo. Final casualty figures are as yet unavailable although the number is reported to be near 300. The sea tragedy follows the deaths from the effects of the recent torrential rains in the city. On each occasion the loss of human lives has been irreparable. We hear and read of much bigger tragedies elsewhere, but when it is at one’s doorstep, the impact is catastrophic.
A few years back we had similar disasters with boats plying the Freetown to Conakry route and the question that has remained on our lips is WHY? Why are these disasters allowed to happen? The attendant circumstances are always there, only waiting for the accident to happen. Umaru Fofana, columnist and BBC stringer who is also President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, SLAJ, writing in the Monday, September 14 issue of the Awoko newspaper has referred to preventive measures which were put in place some years back. I also remember being invited by the Red Cross to launch their Annual Disaster Report for a particular year. I recall calling attention to some of the disasters which occur in our home base and how we could avoid them. Incidentally, no one mentioned me or my statement in the press or on radio when the news of the seminar was being reported, not even the SLBS whose correspondent had asked me questions. But every one who presented a two minute fraternal greeting featured in the news.
There are disasters over which man has no control, like earthquakes, the Tsunami tragedy or the effect of hurricane Katrina and others like it. But when it comes to matters of overloading what excuse could there be? One would not like to anticipate the report of the expected official enquiry but one thing stands out and that is OVERLOADING.
From previous regulations, including the compulsory issuance of lifejackets to passengers, the order not to go below the plimsol line of the boat, one can say that there could be no excuse for such disasters if the regulations were adhered to. But how could over three hundred passengers be crammed in an open boat fitted only with an outboard motor that was not meant to carry even a hundred passengers? How were the limited number of lifejackets to be distributed among such a large number of passengers?
There is something wrong with our psychic as a nation. It is the “me first” syndrome. People do not care for the consequences of their actions as long as their selfish ends are met. Will the President’s Attitudinal Campaign succeed in our life time? The boat owners, the monitoring officials from the Transport and Marine administration, officials of the boat owners’ association all must have the blood of the victims on their hands.
One can only join his Excellency the President as well as the official opposition SLPP in their messages of condolences to the victims and bereaved families. As a nation we have further expressed our grief by the one day period of public mourning. MAY THEIR SOULS REST IN PEACE and may the injured survivors recover rapidly.
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