Torrential rains in Sierra Leone’s capital felled the centuries-old Cotton Tree, a national treasure whose loss has left “a gap” in people’s hearts, the country’s President Julius Maada Bio said Thursday.
“There is no stronger symbol of our national story than the Cotton Tree, a physical embodiment of where we come from as a country,” Bio told the Associated Press. “Nothing in nature lasts forever, so our challenge is to rekindle, nurture, and develop that powerful African spirit for so long represented,.’
Standing 70 meters tall and 15 meters wide, the roughly 400 year-old tree has been Sierra Leone’s national symbol for decades.
It has appeared on bank notes, woven into lullabies and visited by royalty, such as Queen Elizabeth the II, to mark the country’s independence in 1961, according to a statement by Zebek International, a press agency working with Sierra Leone’s government.
For Sierra Leone, the loss is comparable to the fire that destroyed Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral in 2019, said Zebek, the government’s press agency.
Sierra Leone is among the countries most impacted by climate change. In 2017 more than 1,000 people were killed by a landslide due to heavy rains.
President Bio said he looks forward to discussions how best to use the space.