Thursday, July 29, 2021

Living in Fear: Kiang Residents Seek Help as Annual Bush fires Continue to Claim Lives

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By Mustapha Jallow

Following the death of a 36-year-old man, who was killed by inferno in Kiang ‘Wurokang’, residents of the area are now pleading with authorities to intervene to ensure the annual fire outbreaks that usually claim lives and properties in their communities are averted before another outbreak ensues.

The recent inferno was described by locals as the nation’s largest bushfire that destroyed timber-trees, crops, grass, small ground species- animals and pests, and claimed the life of a human being.

Residents, who said they do not know when the next fire outbreak would occur, expressed concerns that they are in a state of fear for their safety

Lamin Jammeh, a native of Kiang ‘Wurokang’ Central who was engaged in fetching and selling firewood for survival, was found lying death in Kiang forest after he was consumed by huge fire on Saturday, 16th January, 2021.

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“We are not safe anymore because of the huge fire… Those days, our elders used to control the fires whenever there was a fire outbreak, but this is not happening anymore because they are now old,’’ said Satou Darboe, who is over 70 years.

Madam Darboe called on the authorities to take immediate action especially the Fire and Rescue Service to ensure their properties and lives are safe. She said they sometimes remain sleepless due to the nature of the bushfires.

Expressing her sorrow over the death of Lamin, Fanta Camara, head of the Women Garden of Kiang ‘Wurokang’, said lack of job opportunities forced Lamin to engage in fetching firewood for sale.

She said if Lamin was empowered and given a decent job, he wouldn’t have gone to the bush to look for firewood to sell to make ends meet for his family, especially the younger ones. Like the previous speaker, Madam Camara, said they are living in fear of the ‘unknown’.

“Well, we do not feel safe anymore because we do not know which direction the fire will come from. It’s very sorrowful seeing fire killing people on yearly basis,’’ she said.

Madam Camara however called on the authorities to create job opportunities for young people in the regions and also take action to put in place measures aim at preventing fire disasters that continue to destroy and claim lives of people in the area.  

Sulayman Camara, Kiang youth engaged in ‘Jakarta’ trade (transporting people via motorbike), said he strongly believes that someone is behind the annual bushfires, saying the fires usually come from neighbouring Kiang Kwinella and destroy their forest.

This medium cannot independently verify this claim.

Mr. Camara called on the relevant authorities to conduct an official investigation into the matter, to determine the cause of the unending fires in the forest.

It could be recalled that Lamin was lying death after bushfire consumed his body in the forest. His pile of wood which was found about 100 meters away from his body was not burned by the inferno. His remaining clothes, watch and ‘jujus’ were beside him too.

Pateh Gibba, the spokesperson of Gambia Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS), said controlling bushfires requires collective action involving firefighters and community members.

Gibba said their station is located in Soma which is far from certain area in Kiang, adding they sometimes find it difficult to do their work because usually receive information about bushfire late. He said disasters sometimes occur because most residents of these areas want to fight the huge fires alone without engaging fire department.  

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