By Alagie Manneh & Omar Bah
A deadly windstorm Wednesday night left nine people dead in the North Bank and another in Busumbala, the executive director of the National Disaster Management Agency disclosed.
Briefing journalists at the agency’s head office yesterday afternoon, Mr Sana Dahaba said the storm affected 3,140 people of which 1,531 have been displaced.
He said the destructive wind was estimated to be travelling at a speed of 85km per hour and was the worst windstorm in five years.
“Most of the people died as a result of the storm. [In NBR] a tree fell on one [family] house and another family was killed when a house roof got blown away and hit them. That is what we can confirm for now. We have sent a response team to go and investigate the [Busumbala one],” Dahaba said.
He described the destruction and deaths as “a big loss” to the nation.
“This morning, the head of state called for an emergency meeting. The government is not taking the welfare of the citizens of the country lightly and that’s why an emergency meeting was called this morning for the government to take its rightful position,” he said.
“This is very, very serious, and the assessment is still ongoing,” Dahaba said.
He said the government needs reliable and credible data before it can intervene to provide relief. “We have always advocated for tree planting to reduce wind disasters,” he stated.
According to Dahaba, the president allocated additional three pick-up vehicles to strengthen the concerted emergency responses.
The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Local Government, Muntaha Sallah, said the country continues to witness increased frequency in extreme weather events and that is evidence that climate change is a “real phenomenon”.
“[The disaster] highlights the importance of governments ongoing efforts to mainstream climate change adaptation in our national disaster risk management. As a result of climate change, we are globally witnessing extreme weather events such as yesterday’s [Wednesday] windstorm,” the PS noted.
He lamented it is the poor and vulnerable that bear the brunt of the death and destruction.
“At a time like this, we call on our stakeholders and partners, local and international, to work together to close the adaptation funding gaps,” Mr Sallah said. He pledged D10,000 towards the disaster relief.
Alassan Senghore, the secretary general of the Gambia Red Cross Society, noted: “We need everyone to come together. It’s not just about giving handouts to communities but working with communities to lift them from the disaster and at the same time to strengthen their resilience in terms of shelter. Therefore, the support that we are looking for is both short, medium and long term.”
Among the worst affected villages are Sare Madi Babani
in CRR, Kerr Dekodeh, Fass Omar Saho, Pakau Njogu and Kerr Yero in the NBR.
The North Bank Region deputy governor, Musa Kanteh, told The Standard yesterday afternoon that his office had received reports of at least seven casualties.
“I can confirm to you that seven people have been confirmed dead in NBR. The deceased are two people from Maimey, two from Njawara, one from Kerr Sidik, one from Conteh Kunda Sukoto and one from Kerr Seller,” Kanteh said.
He said the governor’s office technical assistance committee will visit all the affected villages to assess the damage caused by the windstorm.
“As I speak, we are in Ndungu Kebbeh where almost 75% of the village households have been affected by the windstorm. It is really devastating,” he said.
Kanteh said the regional governor had visited the bereaved families and paid condolences.
The alkalo of Pakau Njogu, Modou Bah, told The Standard that at least 50 compounds in his village were affected by the windstorm. He appealed for immediate assistance to help the families access shelter.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the nocturnal windstorm, President Adama Barrow called an emergency meeting to conduct a rapid assessment of the damages to advise the government accordingly.
The president’s office issued this statement: “President Adama Barrow has been informed of the disaster that caused loss of lives and properties to many families and individuals, following the destruction the windstorm caused in different parts of the country. The damages occurred on Wednesday night, 7 July 2021, and disrupted electricity, water, and other services.
“President Barrow extends his deepest condolences and sympathy to the families that lost their loved ones and empathise with victims, and all those affected throughout the country.”
The president appealed for immediate assistance for affected families as his government assesses the level of damage and needed support.