Senegalese villagers forced to use crane to cross river after flood

These screengrabs show people using a crane to cross a river near Sinthiou Garba.
These screengrabs show people using a crane to cross a river near Sinthiou Garba.

People living in Sinthiou Garba, a village in northeastern Senegal, lost a critical bridge during a flood. However, someone came up with a rather unusual, and dangerous, solution to the crisis -- a crane. Videos have been circulating of the crane in use widely on social media, sparking a debate on the regions serious infrastructure problems.

On August 15, a temporary bridge near Sinthiou Garba was washed away when the river broke it's banks during the rainy season. The temporary bridge had been set up while the main bridge, part of Route National 2 [national highway], was under construction.

The villagers were facing a major crisis, as many needed to cross the river to access healthcare, grocery shops and the cemetery. So -- in desperation -- a crane was used to get people to the other side. People would crowd onto a small unsafe platform, which would then be hoisted across the river. People were ferried back and forth like this all day on August 16, before the authorities finally stepped in.

A local man filmed this video. Aboubakar N. shared it with the France 24 Observers team.

Quite a few social media users expressed shock after watching these videos.

"Incredible but true! […] A miracle of the PSE [Editor’s Note: An acronym for the government’s development program, Plan Sénégal émergent], we no longer transport ill people using a cart but on makeshift stretchers carried by a crane,” tweeted Thierno Alassane Sall, an opposition figure who formerly served as Minister of Energy.


"It was the first time such a method was used”

The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke with Aboubakar N. (not his real name), who runs a local development organisation called Pellital. He explained to our team what happened, but asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions on his career.


A Chinese company called Henan Chine was doing the construction work on Route National 2 and the bridge. The temporary bridge that they had built was washed away and it was Henan Chine’s workers that ran this “ferry” service for a day, until the water levels dropped and a new temporary bridge could be built.

A lot of us locals had a bitter taste in our mouths watching this all unfold. Lots of people refused to accept travelling in this way, especially because it’s dangerous.

Since then, the Minister of Infrastructure has paid our town a visit. On August 25, he said that the permanent bridge, which should be able to withstand flooding, would be finished in two months.


Need for a second bridge in the village

But, for us, this whole thing isn’t the real problem that we are facing. A ravine cuts through our village and, every year, it fills up with rain during the rainy season and makes it impossible to cross.

The cemetery, the junior high and the high school are all located on the west side. On the east side, there’s the primary school, the market and the heath clinic. People on one side can’t bury their dead during rainy season and those on the other side don’t have any access to healthcare.


The photo on the left (taken on August 16, 2019) shows the ravine filled with water after heavy rains. The photo on the right, taken the next day, shows a car stuck in the mud in the same ravine. (These screengrabs were taken from videos filmed by locals and shared by Aboubakar N.)

Ministers under three different presidents have promised us a second bridge over this ravine-- but nothing has come to fruition.