Ivory Coast bishops link flood damage with corruption, underdevelopment

“We are witnessing the impact of Global Warming.”
– Fr. Alphonse Sekongo SMA

Fr Alphonse Sekongo SMA, curate of St. Joseph’s SMA Parish, Blackrock Road, Cork, was witness to terrifying flash floods during a visit home to his native Ivory Coast, which claimed the lives of 20 people. 

Fr. Alphonse Sekongo SMA

Fr Alphonse sent to the SMA Communications Office most of the photographs that appear in this article. He also sent several videos which he took on his mobile phone, which show the speed and relentless power of the currents running through the streets of Abidjan, carrying vehicles and debris effortlessly in its wake. 

“Here we are witnessing the impact of Global Warming,” Fr. Alphonse wrote. 

Meanwhile, Catholic bishops in the Ivory Coast have blamed corruption and urban development for the flash floods that destroyed shops and homes and left bereavement in its wake.

A car, deposited by flash floods the Ivory Coast, is deposited in the sewer system of Abidjan

“In a city as sprawling as Abidjan, witnessing rapid development and galloping urbanization, there are obvious risks of anarchic settlements which violate safety rules and natural topography,” the bishops’ conference said in a statement.

“But there has also been speculation around land expropriations very close to the danger zones. So we appeal for a serious accounting of conscience and for civic responsibility and engagement by everyone.”

The statement was published as bulldozers cleared properties damaged in the June 18-19 floods, which raged to up eight feet through parts of the coastal city.

It said the Catholic Church acknowledged the inundations were a “natural disaster” and was grateful to government leaders who worked to help save victims in the French-speaking country, where numerous families had lost homes and deserved “communal solidarity.”
However, action was also needed, the bishops added, to prevent a repetition of the floods, exacerbated by severe infrastructure problems.

The flash floods, as witnessed by Fr. Alphonse Sekongo SMA

“We assure the state aid services, as well as the donors and well-wishers providing much-needed help and support, of our prayers of solidarity,” the bishops’ conference said.
“But we also launch a pressing appeal to all public authorities to act resolutely to ensure such catastrophes do not recur.”

Catholics make up a fifth of the 20 million inhabitants of Ivory Coast, which is home to the world’s largest Catholic basilica in the capital, Yamoussoukro. Muslims are about 35 percent of the population.

On June 21, Interior Minister Sidiki Diakite said the government had decided to expel inhabitants of flood-prone areas in two densely populated districts of Abidjan, a city of 5 million. He also said the government would demolish stalls and dwellings built over drainage routes and storm canals in a bid to prevent further fatalities.