It is an undisputed fact that certain occurrences in one’s life puts one in the limelight and makes one a topic of conversation worldwide. Such a person becomes a legendary hero about whom various songs are composed.
Many individuals who did not play any role in such occurrences also get invariably affected by and large. Such was the case of Have as a result of the unprecedented landslide that occurred on June 15, 1933. The town became subject of discussion worldwide. People from all walks of life trooped in droves to witness and have firsthand information about the landslide.
For the benefit of the present generation and future ones, I deem it fit to present in print the landslide account.
This is the will of God Almighty, whose wisdom and sound advice is second to none.
I was transferred to Have Etoe from Awudome Tsito, to be in charge of the infant school and Bremen Church, on the 15th of February 1932. I took over from Mr G. N Adae. The school was situated at the Bremen Mission compound between Have Etoe and Gboxome. I alone was in charge of this school with 36 pupils. I was housed in Etoe in a building opposite the Etoe cemetery. Prior to my arrival, my predecessors refused to use this house, hence the place was weedy and desolate. I accepted to occupy this house to the pleasure of the townsfolk. They were happy and agreed to put up a kitchen and add a children’s room to accommodate my family.
Upon assumption of duty, I was greatly upset by a heated protracted chieftaincy dispute which seemed to divide the people. It originated from the destoolment of Togbe Asemtsyra Yawokuma by section of his subjects. His supporters vehemently challenged the destoolment. Consequently there was a bitter struggle and hatred, which was retarding progress. I set it upon myself to mediate and restore peace since the dispute nearly marred one of our Christian festivals.
We had several meetings in my house. The last of the said meetings took place on a calm evening of 14th June 1933. A few of the chiefs came. Since we could not form a quorum, we decided to wait for the arrival of the rest. Not long, it started raining. The rain continued for long, so we decided to call off the meeting. I detailed one Godwin Peku Agbloryor to wear my raincoat and escort each of the chiefs to their respective homes using my umbrella, after which he also went home. I retired to bed around 11 O’clock in the night
It was the wont of some pupils to spend the night with my family. That fateful Agadevi night, we ten in the house, as my wife and one of my children had earlier in the day travelled to Vakpo, her hometown. The ten of us were: D.K Do (the narrator), Esinu Adzoa Do, Gladys Yawa Asembri, Josephine Odzafi, Felicia Atiletsa, Manfred Kumesi Dumoga, G. K Donkor Abiti, David K Ziga, Daniel Yao Kitsi and Daniel Aduama.
The rain continued in torrents. At midnight, I heard a spine-chilling sound. The density of the noise could be likened to a canon fired into a big hole. There was a great commotion in the distance, which drew closer to my residence. It appeared as if a gigantic motor vehicle had stopped by my house with the engine revving. I sat on my bed and listened for a while. The sound drew closer and closer. It looked as if the vehicle was about to enter the house. But it was not possible for any vehicle to enter the premises. Besides, there was no head lamp seen. I became totally confused. I opened the door, came out and noticed that the fence around the house had disappeared. I heard gushing and rushing sound of water. I attempted getting out but could not. I made a second attempt through the kitchen to the children’s room but failed this too. I returned onto my corridor disappointed. I made the third daring attempt and succeeded by climbing a short wall behind the children’s window and made it to the window.
I banged the window and shouted with all my might “wake up! wake up! Our house is flooded. Make no attempt to get through the door, but I shall help you through the window”. I helped them to safety and led all the children including those in my room to a pit latrine cubicle situated a few meters from their room. The latrine had the advantage of being on a raised ground. It had been well roofed with wooden boards and was about twelve feet deep. The rain continued unabated. Fearing that we might drown, I decided to go for help. However hard I tried, it was not just possible to get through the flood. It was then that the reality of our predicament was bare before us. We might be buried by the flood in the toilet. Fear gripped us all. Apart from my daughter, there were eight other children there to rescue. I had to defend them. I contemplated, mustered courage and sorrowfully gave them my parting message. All the children spontaneously started a popular song of the Have Church Choir:
“Hede nyuie! Mia Fofo, hede nyuie!
Ne Mawu lo ko miagakpe
Ne menye afi o ha, le dzifo
I set out bravely but my progress was retarded by the debris carried by the flood waters. There were huge tree stumps, gigantic rolling stones, rocks and boulders all rushing down. A few meters away, I got stuck in the mud but I dared not make noise for fear that the children might be prompted to get out for my rescue at their peril. In any case, apart from the children no one would hear my shout due to the excessive noise.
Braving through the storm, the mud, the rubble and the flood, I understood the reality of the danger I was confronted with. How I got through it to the school building, which I had earlier thought was washed away, was a mystery. I could not tell how I got there. I believed God Almighty, placed my feet on the rushing rubble and the ruins and carried me across the flood. Verily, there is a God in Heaven who rescues, delivers and saves His people. In my distress, I vividly remembered the following words of Psalm 91:
“For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone”
In fact, I did not know and I could not tell how I got through this bizarre and horrendous situation, but I reached the classroom. The room was filled with mud. I immediately withdrew and with great difficulty continued wading and plodding on till I got to Etoe Kpodzi, the mission quarters. My first point of call was presbyter Clemence Klu’s house. I banged the door hard and with a shout told him we were being inundated by flood. Without waiting for his response and details, I proceeded to Johnson Ayi’s house with the same message.
Within minutes, there was a pandemonium at Kpodzi. There was a tolling of bell at the school compound, signifying distress. In no time, people from Etoe trooped to the scene to behold the bizarre occurrence.
The first batch of people who accompanied me back to the school had much difficulty crossing over to the other side as we tried both upstream and downstream approaches without success. We called over for the children who responded that they were all safe.
Three of us finally succeeded in crossing over to rescue the children.
By dawn, news had spread to the entire town. A mammoth crowd gathered at both banks, people from Etoe were at the west bank while those from Gboxome were blocked at east.
The main Accra-Hohoe road was impassable, flooded with swift moving debris. In their confusion and stupor, many people attempted to give various interpretations to the occurrence. We nonetheless were unanimous in giving thanks to the Almighty God, who saved the ten members of my household.
We sang songs of praise and danced till day break. On daybreak, we understood the full import of what happened. God did indeed move in a mysterious way. We were encouraged by Exodus 15 verse 11:
“Who among the gods is like you Oh LORD?
Who is like you-?
Majestic in holiness
Awesome in glory,
We were amazed, looking at the volume of flood, mud, rocks, boulders and rubble, that nothing touched my residence, which could have been buried anyway. We looked up towards Weto and observed a wide gully from the top of the mountain. Mr. H.K Ziga, another brave teacher, and other brave men together with me decided to trace the origin of the landslide. It took us more than an hour to locate a small hole, bored by the rain, which was about one and half feet deep and three feet wide. There was no water in it. But that was the source. What started as a small hole deepened and widened as the flood descended destroying everything on its path. By the time it got to the school, the flood had covered wide area of about 400 yards
The flood had three branches as it descended the mountain. The first, (which should have totally devastated the school building) went past it towards the outskirts of Kpodzi (the Christian settlement), where the rubble miraculously halted. None of the eight households there was affected. The second, which could have buried my household became the mighty flood that cut across the main road flowing through the valley to join river Dayi. The third passed through Teacher Abraham’s big farm and thence to the controversial fetish thicket, Miano-Anyigbato (over which I had previously incurred the displeasure of the chief fetish priest and some townsfolk in connection with a path we the Christian community created). All the rubble carried by this wing was dumped in this groove, thereby burying it without crossing the main road.
God’s might, wisdom, love, mercy and grace had been on display. He directed the flood to where He saw it fit. He had compassion on my household and the ten of us. He saved the school building from destruction having known the toil the people endured to put it up.
Messengers were dispatched to the following places:
- Botoku- to my parents
- Vakpo-to my wife, who had gone there a day earlier on a three day visit to her parents
- Logba-Tota- to the parents of Josephine Odzafi, one of the ten pupils who survived
People from all walks of life thronged Have in the succeeding days to see what happened. There was a great influx of people from surrounding towns such as Kpeve, Woadze, Goviefe, Agate, Nyagbo, Logba, Anfoeta, Vakpo, Anfoega, Amedzofe, Peki, and Kpando to Have.
There were additionally a number of high profile visitors including the Governor of Gold Coast, Tom Thomas and his wife.
The landslide brought gifts of stones for the building of houses. The vast ground, littered with stones of various sizes was used for church service and other festivities. Seats were not needed as about five to eight thousand people could sit on the stones during such occasions. A gigantic rock, about thirteen feet high and eighteen feet wide became my pulpit during worship. The Have church choir led by myself, reciprocated the visit of all who came to us in order to express our gratitude.
I urge all and sundry to join us lift high the Name of the Almighty. For we have become dreamers. Our happiness knew no bounds when we recounted the great things God has done.
(By Rev D.K Do, translated by Nancy Agbloyor, Akyea Nkunu and Charles Gidi)