Thursday, 30 August 2007

Heavy rain disrupts Monrovia's clean water supply

More than a 250,000 residents of Liberia's capital, Monrovia, have been overwhelmed by water from torrential rains and flooding from the nearby St. Paul River. The rains have left them without safe drinking water for three days. Hundreds have also been made homeless. Officials say they are working to restore drinking water and provide help to the displaced residents. August typically represents a lull in tropical Liberia's rainy season. The West African country sees the highest rainfall from June to July and again from September to October. But this year, August has not been a dry month. Heavy rains last Saturday and Sunday have inundated the coastal capital, Monrovia. Daily downpours since then have only made the situation worse. Water levels reached more than two meters in some neighbourhoods near the St. Paul River. Residents walked away from flooded areas carrying their possessions en route to friends or relatives' homes in other parts of the capital. The floods also affected the city's water treatment plant, which pipes safe drinking water to the edge of the city, says Honubu Turay, managing director of the state-owned Liberia Water and Sewage Corporation. "There was a backflow in the water treatment plant and as a result the pump room was flooded which means all of the equipment was under water," Turay said. "And therefore, we suspended the operation of the equipment until we could drain the water and have the equipment properly serviced”. Water was cut off around five in the morning on Monday. Turay says his crew has been working hard ever since to bring the plant back on line. "We are doing everything possible to drain the water," Turay said. "The first thing we did, we put in three dewatering pumps, which are being used now to drain the water. Now, the purpose of that is we have to be able to pump more water out than is coming in”. He says he hopes to be able to supply clean drinking water by the end of the week. But he says, in the meantime, he hopes residents will beable to draw on household reserves, and he advises them to conserve clean water for cooking and drinking. Liberia is still rebuilding four years after a decade-plus civil war brutalized the country. The government, under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been working to restore and repair public services, like national electricity, which were interrupted and damaged by the war.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Fishing boat sinks

The unfortunate fishing boat (mentioned in a previous blog entry) sank yesterday. It started listing heavily to stern whilst we ate our breakfast, and slipped beneath the water before I had time to get our camera. As it sank, it turned on its side so even its aerials aren't visible to mark it's position. Ironically this happened whilst a salvage team was working on raising another wreck - I guess they have one more to add to their "to do" list now...Olly

Granny & Grandpa are here!

My parents arrived on the ship last Monday to work as Dining Room Steward for 2 weeks, working from 6am until 7.30pm (with breaks), two days on and two days off, which is quite an exhausting routine. But its great having them here, and we are all loving having them around. Such a pity its rained every day that they've been here so far, so our time together on the beach has been minimal. Olly

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Another dead guy

The last time we saw a dead Liberian guy was Christmas 2005, when the victim of vigilante justice was left on the main road outside the port for 3 days as a warning to other thieves. This Friday a body bobbed alongside our ship for 3 hours until the Seaport Police unceremoniously dragged him to the beach, where he stayed overnight until the UN took him away next morning. The Police think he either died trying to steel from the ships in the port, or whilst trying to loot from the abandoned fishing vessel. Olly

Looting continues...

Looting continues on a massive scale. Right under the noses of the Nepalese Army and the Liberia Seaport Police, a gang of looters have been stripping clean an abandoned fishing boat moored near our ship, until a Chinese fishing boat came to its rescue and towed it to a safe anchorage where we hope it will be repaired. Further along the coast, the massive abandoned Hotel Africa remained un-looted for years whilst Irish and Swedish Troops were in the neighbourhood, but looting started as soon as they were replaced by Pakistani Troops, and now the hotel is just a shell. Obviously the Liberian population takes the presence of some peacekeepers more seriously than others. Olly

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Clowning around

On Thursday night we had a visit from an Italian clown who spent ages playing noisy games with the ship kids before making the Armour of God out of balloons as part of his repertoire. Although a sheet metal worker by trade, Mario has a very succesful ministry as a clown and takes his totally silent Biblical message all over the world. Photo of the ship kids with their Biblical balloon swords, balloon shields, balloon helmets, balloon flowers and balloon dogs. Olly

More buses for Liberia

A thoughtful European government has donated a fleet of buses to the Liberian government to lift the pressure on the overburdened fleet of battered taxis that carry the people of Liberia and their products around. Unfortunately, the roads here are in such a terrible state at the moment that the fancy buses won't clear the deep potholes that are everywhere. The people of Liberia and the country's economy will have to wait for the dry season before they will notice any change. Photo of the buses being unloaded in the Freeport today. Olly

Liberia National Police -v- Liberia Seaport Police - Update

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has placed on three-month probation the Police Inspector General, Madam Beatrice Munah Sieh, in relation with the 9 July violent clash between the National Police and the Seaport Police at the Freeport of Monrovia, the African Press Agency learnt Friday from reliable source. President Sirleaf thus overturned the Boima Fahnbulleh Committee recommendation, set up to investigate the matter, to dismiss the police inspector general for "professional misconduct" during the July 9 violence. According to the ruling, the police boss would undergo one month leadership training at a school abroad. Last 9 July, the Seaport Police and the Liberia National Police clashed at the Freeport of Monrovia, as Seaport Police officers put up stiff resistance to stop the arrest of two colleagues accused of involvement in fuel theft at the port. Stones, machetes and cutlasses were used as the national police retaliated, resulting in several persons, including passers-by and bystanders, sustaining injuries. The Fahnbulleh committee said the police inspector general bore the greatest responsibility for the fracas at the Freeport which left an estimated 50 persons injured. In her six-count decision following the thorough study of the Fahnbulleh report, the Liberian leader directed that the Port Authority and the police to investigate the level of injury sustained and property damaged during the incident for "an appropriate level of compensation". The President however endorsed the recommendation by the Fahnbulleh investigative panel to suspend the assistant director of the Seaport Police, Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Zoegar for one month without pay for 'dereliction of duty'. The Liberian leader warned secondary security agencies that the Liberia national Police remain the supreme law enforcer in the country. African Press Agency

Friday, 10 August 2007

Fire Fighter Olly

Within a week of returning to the ship I returned to the Fire Team as second in charge of Fire Team 2, and have now become the Team Leader of Fire Team 4. Its great to be in charge of a team of highly trained individuals with such an important function and I take the responsibility very seriously. I enjoy the weekly training which often involves the whole ship's emergency teams including the Emergency Medical Team and the Ward Evacuation Team. Recently we had one imaginative training session when we walked a memorised route around the ship in teams of two wearing full fire-suits and breathing apparatus with black bin bags over our heads so we couldn't see where we were going. Me and Drew, another Brit, won! Olly

So just what are we doing with ourselves?

Since we joined the ship, Sally, Noah, Anna and Libby have been taking part in the Summer Program for kids, involving trips off the ship and activities on the ship every day. There are now two weeks of holiday before the school year begins again on 21st August. Both Noah and Anna have teachers from South Africa, so it will be interesting to see what accents they develop over the next few months. Meanwhile, I have joined the 13 strong Technical Projects Team, which is putting the finishing touches to the ship. I am learning some new skills such a sheet metal work, and have become a bit of an expert in fire-proof insulation installation and air ducting installation. We are all working hard to prepare an extra room for a second emergency generator which must be in place in November, or the ship will not be allowed to sail from Liberia in December. I work daily with Liberian and Sierra Leonean crew and day workers, three of whom are imaginatively named George Washington, Billy Elliot and Richmond Hill. Olly

A month goes by...

Its hard to believe, but just over a month has gone by since we moved onto the Africa Mercy. Its been a busy month as we learnt our way around the community and around the huge new ship. We thank God every morning when we wake that we are able to serve the people of West Africa again with Mercy Ships, and I still fall asleep with a silly smile on my face. We continue to find delight in the luxuries of living aboard with 24 hour power, water and electricity, and little things like the constant supply of milk and cheese (which we were unable to keep when we lived ashore without 24 hour electricity). And life is so stress-free after the continually highly stressful life of living ashore. Most of all though, the kids are able to interact with other kids once again, which is a relief to us all. Yes, we are very privileged to be back in the Mercy Ships community again. Olly