Roberts International Airport Highway Besieged by Another Flood

UNIFICATION CITY, Margibi – Torrential rains in recent days have left the highway to the Roberts International Airport flooded, impeding the movement of thousands along the key corridor.

Residents of Joe Blow Town, a settlement closed to the Roberts International Airport, awoke early Wednesday morning to discover that the road was flooded. Their homes were also affected by the water, forcing many to relocate to other locations.

Flooding is no longer a surprise to residents of Joe Blow Town and surrounding communities as these areas experience major flooding at least once a year.

Many who had their homes damaged made their way to friends and relatives in parts of Unification City, which was not as badly hit. Others have now relocated to the R. S. Caulfield High School, although some fear that their abandoned homes will now be a target for looters.

On early Wednesday morning, smaller vehicles such as sedans could not cross the flooded communities – only trucks and SUVs were able to pass. Many drivers of smaller vehicles were seen cutting off their engines, sealing the exhaust pipes with plastic bags, and paying locals to pull their vehicles through the flood waters. Locals were charging L$400 (US$2.48) per vehicle.

It became almost impossible for regular commuters traveling from Paynesville’s ELWA Junction to find commercial taxis to transport them across the flooded region. Commuters were charged the regular L$200 (US$1.24) usually charged for a trip to Harbel. They were then dropped at the edge of the water and left to figure out how to make the rest of their trip.

Fortunately, officers of the Navy section of the Armed Forces of Liberia were deployed at both sides of the water to give assistance to travelers. They had two mini-boats and a truck that transported both commuters and travelers coming in via the Roberts International Airport.

Joel Zangar, sectional head of Joe Blow Town, told The Bush Chicken that the current flood is the worst he has seen.

“From the time I was a child, this is my first time to witness such a creeping flood. We have experienced flood for many years, but this one is surprising to all of us, as the water table has risen so rapidly,” Zangar added.

Zangar said Joe Blow Town is usually flooded after prolonged rains because it is located near a swamp.

He said people in over 50 households are now homeless due to the flood and the number might increase if the rain keeps falling.

Others communities affected by the flood include Dolo Town, Lahai Camp, Zoeklain, Peter Town, Yello Brown Town, and Koko Village.

In Dolo Town, most of the settlements near a local river have been engulfed by water as the residents are seeking refuge in schools and churches.

Almost all residents in a community called Kokoville in Dolo Town have sought refuge in Becky’s Primary School and the Mother Artis School. Even their refuge grounds are now being threatened by the rising water level.

A flooded New Dolo Town. Photo: Jefferson Daryoue

Paul Tokpah, a resident of Harbel, said it was unfortunate that the government has failed to find a solution to the recurrent issue of flooding along the highway.

“Our government is just not serious,” he said. “The number one road in our country is being flooded every year and nothing is done in finding a remedy.”

Levi Piah, a former superintendent of Margibi who now serves as chief technical advisor at the Environmental Protection Agency, attributed the continuous flooding of the highway to regular construction and backfilling of wetlands.

“Wetlands are lands that contain water throughout, be it rainy and dry seasons, and that they serve as giant sponge to absorb rainwater to prevent flooding,” he explained. “The regular tempering of these lands caused flooding because the land can no longer absorb the water.”

He named the lack of a proper drainage system as another contributing factor of the flood.

“Most of our communities are developing without [a] systemic plan. Houses are not built in columns and rows. People build in any form they like,” he furthered stressed.

He said some of the areas now flooding were low lying areas and therefore particularly vulnerable.

Meanwhile, many commuters are now using the unpaved Division 16 to 15 Gate 15 route to access Monrovia via Redlight.

Featured photo by Jefferson Daryoue

Jefferson Daryoue

Jefferson is the news director at Peace FM in Harbel. He is also a former student leader of the Margibi University Student Association at the University of Liberia.

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