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Tides Leave Hundreds Homeless on Liberia Coast

Many families living along Liberia's coast are moving to safer areas after flooding and high tides destroyed scores of homes and structures by the sea. Some say mining beach sand, which is used for building, may be causing coastal changes, which led to this disaster. Kari Barber has more from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar with additional reporting by Prince Collins in Monrovia.

In the Sinkor district of Monrovia, one of the areas hit hard by the flooding, retired government employee Lewis Toe says he wants to take his wife and eight children and move further from the sea.

"The water is still coming and so many houses the sea has been carrying away, more than eleven houses," he said. "Outside you can look at the beach, the sea is coming."

Liberia is under reconstruction following the civil war that ended in 2003. Many people make money by collecting sand from the beaches and selling it to building companies. Toe says he has seen this in his neighborhood and believes it is causing the flooding.

"I am afraid of the sea, why? Because [the beach] is overmined," he said.

The United Nations Development Program's recent report on Liberia's environment called sand mining one of the most serious threats to the nation's coastline and marine environment. The government is looking at way to regulate the practice.

Some do not believe that sand mining alone can be blamed for the destruction.

Sysvelster Mulbah says many homes in his area have been destroyed, but he thinks the cause may be a changing sea.

"When it first started we said people are out of money you know taking sand, but we are beginning to realize that it is not only money or sand," he said. "It is beyond our belief to see such a thing happening. The power of the sea is marvelous."

Mulbah says he has tried putting up sand bags to prevent the encroaching sea from taking his home, but all of his efforts have been futile. He also plans to move away from the ocean.

John Tamba says the erosion and flooding, which began in late July, is getting worse. When the sea engulfed his home, he built a makeshift place to sleep where his former house stood.

"And the sea is still continuing," he said. "Even the little place I just built temporarily to be in, the sea is destroying that place also."

Rescue workers are encouraging families to relocate away from the sea, and although some are moving, many are fishermen and say they cannot afford to move away from their source of livelihood.