Dying for a holiday

Freetown’s Lungi International Airport lies some distance from the capital, separated from it by the mouth of the Sierra Leone River, so one of the first things air passengers have to do on landing is decide whether to take the helicopter, hovercraft, ferry or pirogues across to Aberdeen or Government Wharf.

“None of the options for transferring between the international airport at Lungi and Freetown is risk-free” reports the British Foreign Office soberly. It continues: “Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff operate a policy of informed choice and use all of the transport options available with the exception of local boats/pirogues”. Its lengthy recommendations and caveats are perhaps best summed up with the phrase ‘crossy fingers’. But it’s clear from what is written that local water transport is considered the riskiest option of all.

Forget the local boats and travel on the new highway between Lungi and Freetown instead

This opinion is unlikely to change unless a motorbike taxi service is introduced. Out of the main forms of transportation available to the public, motorcycling comes out as by far the worst however the statisticians choose to record the data. There are those who dissent from the mainstream with the website wiki answers stating “the most dangerous form of transport is by far wife riding, [they] will get extremely angry and unstable if transport is used for extended periods of time”.

While motorcycling/wife riding are considered the most dangerous of transport options, air travel is most often cited as the safest. Looking at the statistics, it’s fair to conclude no one actually dies from air accidents (817 people of roughly 2 billion in 2008; or 0.00004%). With about 1 million deaths worldwide from car accidents, both trains and buses are generally considered to be significantly safer. Needless to say, a fatal accident is more likely in any form of transport in a less developed country.

Transport by dhow, and other forms of boat, are not recommended

Ferries and other forms of water transport are indeed often thought of as the most dangerous forms of transportation in the developing world, the hazards covering almost every aspect of boating from poor training to overcrowding. Sadly, cycling and walking are also some of the riskier transportation options, almost exclusively from the existence of cars.

Popping out to the corner shop for a pint of milk? The stats say it’s best to fly.

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