Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Cluny Sisters Give Witness to Sierra Leone's Devastating Mudslide

Sister Catherine Jarra, Provincial of West Africa Province, shares her experience with the mudslide:

Sister Catherine Jarra

In 1945, in a village of Charlotte behind the Sugar Loaf Mountain, in the month of August a large portion of a hillside overlooking the village broke off which created a dam across a swollen stream and which caused torrential flood destroying a locality known as Bottom Shekeh destroying seven houses.

Sixty two years from then the same disaster has occurred on 14th August 2017, after a heavy downpour of rain throughout the night. Over 150 houses have been submerged in the mud; over 1000 people have been submerged in the mud. About 300 [500 as of last count] have been retrieved in very bad condition, parts of body cut etc. The only people that were saved were those who that were out of the area just before the incident occurred.

Around 3:00 am, there was a big bang and the people trembled. They were unaware of what was happening so they didn’t take it seriously. Those who sought refuge at the mountain were trapped and swept off by the landslide to Lumley, the other sea part of Freetown. Bodies were seen floating in the sea. A rescue operation team was set by the government to help retrieve the bodies. All NGOs in the country came to support and rescue the situation. The National Security Force (NSF) of government was the lead coordinating body. An emergency meeting was summoned and the needs were identified.

Caritas, the Catholic Church organization, was part of Multi Sectorial Strategic Planning Committee. The needs were Shelter, Medical Care, Clothing and Registration of survivors. Caritas Helped in the area of Medical, registration of survivors and provision of food. Sr. Josephine Amara, SJC, working at Caritas as the health coordinator joined the team to put things in place to help the situation.

The President has called for help from the international community and has declared seven days of mourning in the country in honour of those who lost their lives in the wake of the Monday 14th August, 2017 mudslide and flooding in Freetown. The National mourning starts on Wednesday 16th August to 22nd August 2017 during which period the floods should be flown at half-mast and at 12 midday, Wednesday the general public is expected to observe a minute of silence.

At the moment the President has invoked the Military Aid to Civil Community (MAC-C) in the national security threat as raised to the level 3 in response to the unfolding emergency situation in the country.

The incident occurred during our Chapter in Leicester [a mere 2.5 miles away] so we stopped to go the site to show our support for the Victims. Bishop Gabriel Kumordgi, our facilitator for the chapter, led us in a prayer for those who perished in the disaster. We met a woman who lost three children and her husband while she was marketing. A whole Baptist Church was having an all-night vigil, about 40 people in the church all died.

People are really traumatized. The sound of the ambulance siren brought back memories of the Ebola so we were all very sad.

Taken as the village was being covered

Associated Press Photo

Let us hold the Cluny Sisters and peoples of Sierra Leone in prayer as they begin to put their lives back together following this horrific tragedy.

Donations can be made on our website: 
(Sierra Leone in memo)
or mailed to Cluny Sisters, PO Box 66, Newport, RI 02840

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