Death Trap: Trucks Cross Sewa River on Canoes

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By Aruna Turay

Residents ferrying a truck across

The drowned local ferry

Residents crossing with goods

Thousands of residents living in Masingbe, Blama and other surrounding villages in the Tonkolili district, northern Sierra Leone are currently in what many people have described as a serious ‘Death Trap’, following the sinking of the only makeshift manually pulled ferry at Gedema town in the Sewa River.

As it is now, local traders and residents are risking their lives in small locally made canoes to ferry across the high and rough tide river. These risks have led to the loss of several lives and properties worth millions of leones whenever these canoes sink in the river as a result of rough tide.

Most dangerously, motorists have resorted to desperate measures of crossing the river, mounting trucks, cars and motorbikes on locally made canoes to make it to the other side of the river with their goods, foodstuffs, medicals and other essential supplies.

In another sad development, the road between Blama town in the Small Bo chiefdom, Kenema district to Masingbe in the Koninke chiefdom Tonkolili district has been in a very deplorable state for decades now.

The economic benefits/importance to the entire country cannot be over emphasised, despite this 96.561 kilometers route serving as a quick connection between the south-eastern to that of northern parts of the country, it also carries huge economic benefits to the country in relation to mining, agricultural and trade activities.

This stretch of road covers six economically rich chiefdoms including Small Bo, Kandu Leppiama, Simbaru, Wandor, Gorama and Koninke.

Despite several lobbying by paramount chiefs, parliamentary representatives, political leaders and indigenes from these communities for government to consider fixing the road, nothing has been done so far.

A visit by this writer to some of the affected communities revealed that plans were on the way for the commencement of the road project, that would have seen the construction of a standard bridge over the Sewa River but these plans have however been interrupted by COVID-19.

The sinking of the ferry coupled with the deplorable road condition have since made living condition for inhabitants of these chiefdoms more difficult, especially during the rains when the water level goes high and rough tide.

The situation has not only affected the livelihood of the locals but also that of education, health and development among other facilities.

Residents have used this medium to appeal to government through the Sierra Leone Roads Authority and Ministry of Works to speedily fix the local ferry or construct the bridge to help save more lives from drowning in the river.