A wave that measured at least four metres high flooded a large part of a coastal neighbourhood in the town of Saint-Louis, Senegal on Monday, November 19. The neighbourhood sits on a thin sandy peninsula known as the Langue de Barbarie. Our Observers say that they fear this peninsula will disappear under rising water levels caused by rising global temperatures.
The wave hit the shore during the night. When dawn broke, residents started filming the onslaught of the ocean:
A house collapsed and several people were injured. Three victims were hospitalised, according to the website Ndar Infos. Many people didn’t want to leave their homes, said Petit Ndiaye, a blogger who surveyed the damage in the neighbourhood of Guet Ndar, which sits on the Langue de Barbarie.
"It’s rare to have such a large wave. It terrified residents”
The weather service announced ahead of time that there would be dangerous waves in between Saint-Louis and Dakar. Most fishermen in this area follow the weather forecasts closely to know if they should go to sea or not, so luckily, many families heard the news and left the neighbourhood to go stay with relatives.But it is rare to have such a large wave. It terrified residents. Our dam doesn’t protect against waves that are that powerful because the wind pushes them right over the top.
Saint-Louis is directly threatened by climate change. Since the 2000s, the ocean has been rising at least five metres a year. Now it is right at the foot of the homes in the Langue de Barbarie. The beach, which was huge before, has almost entirely disappeared.
Currently, a dam is under construction on the Langue de Barbarie to combat erosion. The dam project is largely financed by the French Development Agency (l’Agence française de développement), who have invested up to 16 million euros. The money was pledged by Emmanuel Macron during his visit to Saint-Louis in February 2018.
The dam collapsed in late April 2018 after construction began, which sparked criticism. One critic is our Observer Makhtar Ndiaye, who is a local blogger.
"The very existence of the Langue de Barbarie is under threat”
This flooding shows the limits of the dam. The government needs to act because the dam isn’t enough to protect the Langue de Barbarie from the dangers of the ocean. Investing millions isn’t enough. The authorities need to find a durable solution and adapt it to the Saint-Louis context. That might mean installing breakwaters or something else. The most important thing is to make a decision.It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a wave like that. This event that shows that the very existence of the Langue de Barbarie is under threat.
The FRANCE 24 Observers team were on the ground in Saint-Louis back in September, for an episode of Observers Direct. While we were there, our two Observers showed us the damage caused by rising ocean levels, which had caused homes and schools along the coast to collapse. People displaced by the flooding were living in difficult conditions in a camp on the outskirts of Saint-Louis.