Death Toll in Sierra Leone Mudslide Stands at 400 as Rescue Operations Continue
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Rescue workers in Sierra Leone have recovered 400 bodies so far in one of Africa's deadliest mudslides in decades.
A mountainside collapsed in the town of Regent on the outskirts of Freetown early Monday morning, following a night of torrential rains and severe flooding. The mudslide buried dozens of homes.
Morgues Struggle to Find Storage Space for Deceased Residents
Rescue operations continued feverishly into Tuesday while morgues struggled to find space for the dead, reported Reuters. More heavy rainfall is expected in the coming days.
Bulldozers dug through mud and rubble at the foot of Mount Sugar Loaf. Many residents had been asleep when part of the mountainside turned into an avalanche of mud.
Bodies continue to arrive at the city’s central morgue. Corpses lie on the floor and on the ground outside because the morgue is overloaded, a Reuters witness said.
“Our problem here is space. We are trying to separate, quantify and examine quickly, and then we will issue death certificates before the burial,” Owiz Koroma, the morgue’s director, told reporters.
Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma urged residents of Regent and other flooded areas around Freetown to evacuate immediately and allow military personnel and other rescue workers to continue their search for survivors.
Koroma said in a television address on Monday evening that rescue centers had been set up around the capital to register and assist victims.
"We estimate that at least 3,000 people are homeless...they need shelter, medical assistance and food," Sierra Red Cross Society spokesman Abu Bakarr Tarawallie said by phone, according to an August 14 article on the Voice of America. The Red Cross said another 600 persons are missing.
Sierra Leone Red Cross Fears Outbreaks of Cholera and Typhoid
“We are also fearful of outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid,” Tarawallie told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Freetown. “We can only hope that this does not happen.”
Contaminated water and water-soaked soil often lead to potentially deadly diseases like cholera and diarrhea after floods and mudslides.
The United Nations children's agency, UNICEF, is providing trauma counseling and therapy to families and children in the communities struck by the mudslide, VOA reported. "You can see people openly grieving...there is a lot of hurt to address," UNICEF spokesman John James said.