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What we need to learn from Freetown's landslide tragedy

Last week, disaster hit Sierra Leone, one of the jewels of Africa. At least 500 people were killed after a mudslide tore through a suburb of the capital Freetown. Hundreds of people are still missing and thousands more are left homeless. This is a moment of pain that will forever be etched in our memories as Africans, but simply remembering this tragedy is not enough. We need to learn from it.

Let's put things in perspective. In Sierra Leone and across Africa, the science is unequivocal: Climate change, alongside other man-made elements like deforestation and encroachment, is a contributing factor in such disasters.

According to the US National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, Sierra Leone has received three times the normal seasonal rainfall this year and such torrential rains are a direct consequence of climate change. This extreme rainfall, combined with the encroachment of creeks and wetlands that act as a natural drainage system for flood water and construction on flood-prone areas cumulatively precipitated this disaster.

Jo Potts

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