An iconic and gigantic tree ravaged by a storm

An iconic, gigantic tree ravaged by a storm


One of Sierra Leone's emblems, the centuries-old cheese tree in the capital Freetown, lost all its branches following a storm on Wednesday evening.

There is only 70m giant, known locally as the “Cotton Tree”, that the base of its enormous trunk, still standing, following “torrential rains and strong winds”, announced Thursday the government of this small African country West in a statement.

The Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs later clarified in a statement that the remains of the tree would be “secured and preserved” by the police until they were taken to the national museum by the Monuments Commission of the ministry.

Several hundred people as well as President Julius Maada Bio visited the site in mourning throughout the day.

“For centuries, the Cotton Tree has been a proud emblem of our nation, a symbol that has grown to serve as shelter for many people,” responded President Bio.

“I was shocked to see this morning on the way to work our beloved Cotton Tree destroyed,” Gibrilla Sesay, a 34-year-old financial sector employee, told AFP.

D 'according to tradition, it is under this cheese tree, “kapok tree”, “lovers tree” or “cotton wood” depending on the name, that the slaves landed in North America where they had won their freedom by fighting on the British side during the American Revolutionary War, would have come to pray and thank heaven at the end of the 18th century.

The image of the tree adorned banknotes and stamps and its fame earned it a visit from Queen Elizabeth II in 1961.

The tree had already been attacked by flames in 2018 and then in 2020.

< p>Sierra Leone has suffered several environmental disasters in recent years.

In August 2017, more than 1,100 people were killed following a mudslide in the capital caused by heavy rains .