Sahel Academy evacuated due to severe flooding

By Tianna Haas | Niger in West Africa

Photo of SIM's compounds flooding in 2020 by Beth Botheras.

Severe flooding of the Niger River has forced residents of SIM’s Sahel Academy and the Bible Center of Niamey to evacuate.

In 2012, disastrous flooding displaced 53 people from their homes, requiring fortification of the compounds’ dike and the installation of a berm around the school – but this episode of flooding has been even more grave.

SIM Niger Personnel Coordinator Nancy DeValve said, “For the past two weeks our River Watch management team and work crews have worked hard to fill bags with laterite to build up the dike while we watched the Niger River rise to unprecedented heights.”

On Sunday, 23 August 2020, the floodwaters began to overtake the dike, rapidly surpassing the level in 2012. By midday on Monday, a wall near the dorm without berm coverage collapsed, allowing torrents to pour in.

SIM member Scott Eberle said the gap in the berm was left because “no one thought the water could get very high on the street away from the river.” The berm protecting the remaining perimeter survived but became useless as the record-high waters engulfed the area.

The SIM team members have shifted books and equipment in the SIM Education office, located within the Bible Center compound, to higher shelves, while they also attempt to transport materials elsewhere. Fifteen international families and several Bible school students are now in search of permanent housing.

Both the compounds are now under about five feet of water. Scott said, “This took many by surprise … Parts of the compound are now only accessible by canoe or swimming.”

The communities bordering the Niger River have a long road of recovery ahead. SIM International Team Training Lead Ken Baker said, “It will be months before the water fully recedes … February at the earliest.”

Pray for:

• Wisdom for housing, food, and water. Pray for the thousands who have lost housing, livelihood, belongings and even lives.

• Those rescuing the materials that are still trapped inside the buildings.

• Health and protection for those making these rescues, since sewage mixes with the floodwater.

• Amy Freeman (Sahel Academy Board Chairperson) and Joel Gray (Sahel Academy Director) to form effective plans as they meet and deliberate on next steps.

• The students, teachers, and administration experiencing this major disruption in their academic year at Sahel Academy, which was due to begin next week.

Help SIM respond

To assist our SIM team in recovery from this disaster, visit our donation page. Find the office nearest you and use project number 97260.