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Page last updated at 08:14 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

'World only cares about pirates'

Hijacked Saudi oil tanker Sirius Star

Ex-Somali Army Colonel Mohamed Nureh Abdulle lives in Harardhere - the town closest to where the hijacked Saudi oil tanker, Sirius Star is moored.

He tells the BBC, via phone from his home, that the town's residents are more concerned about the apparent dumping of toxic waste than piracy.

The Harardhere-born military man advises the town's elders on security matters and is in his fifties.

Somalia has been wracked by conflict since 1991 - when its last national government was forced from power.

The super-tanker is close to our coast. It is a very, very long ship. Some time ago we had our own problems of piracy in our town but that has not happened lately.

The people who have been hijacking these ships in our seas are not from our region. We do not know any of the guys on the super-tanker and they haven't made any contact with us.

You know, our problem is not piracy. It is illegal dumping.

These problems have been going for sometime and the world knows about it. The Americans have been here in the region for a long time now - they know about the pollution.

Instead, no, the world is only talking about the pirates and the money involved.

Mysterious illnesses

Meanwhile, there has been something else going on and it has been going on for years. There are many dumpings made in our sea, so much rubbish.

Map

It is dumped in our seas and it washes up on our coastline and spreads into our area.

A few nights ago, some tanks came out from the high sea and they cracked it seems and now they are leaking into the water and into the air.

The first people fell ill yesterday afternoon. People are reporting mysterious illnesses; they are talking about it as though it were chicken pox - but it is not exactly like that either. Their skin is bad. They are sneezing, coughing and vomiting.

This is the first time it has been like this; that people have such very, very bad sickness.

The people who have these symptoms are the ones who wake early, before it is light, and herd their livestock to the shore to graze. The animals are sick from drinking the water and the people who washed in the water are now suffering.

Isolated

We are people who live in a very remote town and here, we are isolated; we only rely on God.

This town is close to the sea. It is a very old town which has a mixture of Somali clans. It is not big but it has a well-knit community.

Our community used to rely on fishing. But now no-one fishes. You see, a lot of foreign ships were coming and they were fishing heavily - their big nets would wipe out everything, even the fishermen's equipment. They could not compete.

So the people here began farming and keeping greater numbers of livestock. Like in any other Somali town, all one can do is rely on oneself.

But now we have these medical hazards.

What can we do about it?



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