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Sierra Leone Loses ‘Symbol Of Freedom’ In Rainstorm

The giant Kapok tree was struck down by lightning during a heavy rainstorm.

An iconic giant tropical tree fell after a heavy rainstorm in Freetown, Sierra Leone May 24, 2023. Visit Sierra Leone via REUTERS

A heavy rainfall caused a massive tree that had towered over the city of Sierra Leone for generations and represented freedom to its early inhabitants to fall.

President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone referred to the unfortunate incidence as “a great loss to the nation,” as thousands flocked to observe the shattered trunk of the kapok tree, which was located in the centre of a roundabout close to the president’s office and the national museum in Freetown.

The “Cotton Tree” was the most significant landmark in the West African nation that was established by freed American slaves. It is believed that those slaves congregated under its branches to pray before settling into their new home when they came by boat in the late 1700s.

The president wrote in a tweet, “It was regarded as a symbol of liberty and freedom by early settlers, we will have something at the same spot that bears testament to the great Cotton Tree’s place in our history. All voices will be brought together for this.”

Victor Tutu Rogers, a bystander, reported seeing the tree fall to Reuters on Wednesday at around 9:40 p.m. (21:40 GMT). He said, “The wind was blowing, the rain got heavy. I dashed round the cotton tree on my way from work, because I feared the branches might fall. Shortly after that there was a heavy lightning and I heard a heavy bang – the sound of the tree falling behind me.”

The branches and trash had been removed by Thursday, leaving only a stump.

The city’s Chief Administrator, Festus Kallay, said. “As a municipality it was very much symbolic, the place where we hold our annual thanksgiving every November to offer prayers and for many other events, the Freetown skyline will hardly be the same again.”

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi