14, August 2017
At least 312 people have been killed and more than 2,000 left homeless when a mudslide and heavy flooding hit Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, leaving hospitals struggling to cope. Red Cross spokesman Patrick Massaquoi told AFP the toll could rise further as his team continued to survey disaster areas in Freetown, where heavy rains have caused homes to disappear under water and triggered a mudslide.
An AFP journalist at the scene on Monday saw bodies being carried away and houses submerged in two areas of the city, where roads were turned into churning rivers of mud and corpses washed up on the streets. Bodies were spread out on the floor of a morgue, Sinneh Kamara, a coroner technician at the Connaught Hospital mortuary, told the national broadcaster.
“The capacity at the mortuary is too small for the corpses,” he told the Sierra Leone National Broadcasting Corp. Kamara urged the health department to deploy more ambulances, saying his mortuary only has four.
Sierra Leone’s national television broadcaster interrupted its regular programming to show scenes of people trying to retrieve their loved ones’ bodies. Others were seen carting relatives’ remains in rice sacks to the morgue. Military personnel have been deployed to help in the rescue operation currently ongoing, officials said.
“It is likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble,” Vice President Victor Foh told Reuters at the scene of the mudslide in the mountain town of Regent, adding that a number of illegal buildings had been erected in the area.
“The disaster is so serious that I myself feel broken,” he added. “We’re trying to cordon (off) the area (and) evacuate the people.” People cried as they looked at the damage under steady rain, gesturing toward a muddy hillside where dozens of houses used to stand, a Reuters witness said. Mudslides and floods are fairly common during the rainy season in West Africa, where deforestation and poor town planning put residents at risk.