Absence of Alternative Bridge Cuts off Major Connection to Southeast

YARPLEAH TOWN, River Cess – River Cess residents are feeling the economic pinch caused by the cutting off of the county’s connection with Grand Bassa.

After the demolition of the old Timbo River Bridge, the contractor building the new bridge, Jupiter Construction had built a temporary path to allow for people to commute across the river. However, that detour was washed away by heavy rains on May 4. The elimination of that detour means a major connection to the southeast has now been cut off. Travelers from Monrovia to the southeast must now head north through Nimba and Grand Gedeh instead of going directly in the southeastern direction.

Some local residents attempted to use small canoes to cross commuters who were stranded across both sides of the river. They were however prevented by the Liberia National Police and other local authorities. Those who refused to adhere to the authorities continued to transport people in smaller canoes.

One of the canoes, transporting three passengers, overturned and almost resulted in the drowning of the passengers on board. Coincidentally, the passengers included Napoleon Davis, the supervisor for Jupiter Construction. Davis and the other passengers were successfully rescued.

The more than 200 commuters stranded on both sides of the river daily have been pressuring local authorities for a solution.

Following an appeal by the county’s assistant superintendent for development, Amos Somah, the local fishermen community in River Cess began using their motorized canoe to cross commuters on Monday, May 6.

Motorized canoe transporting commuters who had been stranded at the Timbo River. Photo: Eric Opa Doue

While the motorized canoe was being used to transport commuters for L$100 (US$0.55) a passenger, other smaller canoes and rafts transported motorcycles for L$350 (US$1.94).

A raft carries two motorcycles across the Timbo River. Photo: Eric Opa Doue

A civil society leader, George Trokon, expressed the need for the central government’s attention to be drawn to their situation in River Cess. Trokon said a national disaster could occur if it is not resolved soon.

He said one motorized canoe carrying eight passengers at a time is not enough to serve the many commuters traveling both sides of the Timbo River each day. Moreover, passengers are not usually equipped with life vests.

A commuter who only identified herself as Kadiatu explained to The Bush Chicken that she had spent the night at the riverbank waiting to cross with her baby for fear that her goods would have been stolen if she went to sleep.

“This is very bad and the government needs to come and help us,” she said. “If I don’t get the car to carry me today, that means I and my baby will sleep here again.”

Kadiatu sits with her baby and her goods. Photo: Eric Opa Doue

The washing away of the temporary bridge has also exacerbated the already high cost of basic services and commodities in River Cess.

Less than two days after the incident, a gallon of gasoline increased to L$700 (US$3.89) and L$$800 (US$4.44) in many places from its original price of L$600 (US$3.33). A dollar scratch card for phone call also climbed from L$190 (US$1.05) to L$250 (US$1.39), while a 25kg bag of rice also increased from L$2,500 (US$13.89) to L$2,900 (US$16.11).

A consultant working for Jupiter Construction, Joseph Quansah, had earlier warned that the log bridge would be washed away if the new bridge was not constructed by April 24 because the increase in rainfall would cause the river to rise.

“To achieve this, dismantling of the existing bridge must have commenced Tuesday 12th February 2019. So we are behind time,” Quansah said in a report.

“All of this can only be done at water level below the detour log bridge. If not, the detour will be washed away by high water level flow and there will be no crossing until next dry season.”

The comments were contained in a statement Quansah made at the Yarpah Town Police Depot when he was arrested and detained for abruptly closing the road to the public without creating an alternative earlier in February.

Featured photo by Eric Opa Doue

Eric Doue

Eric Opa Doue is a co-founder of Echo Radio Station, which does a series of programs in Bassa, Kru, and simple Liberian English. Under his leadership, Echo Radio was selected as one of the Moody Radio global partners for training opportunities in 2013 and 2014. Eric was one of a handful of reporters who received training from Internews in 2015 on humanitarian reporting during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. He holds a diploma in Journalism, from the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

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