Tags: Sierra Leone | flood | disaster

Grim Search Resumes in Sierra Leone's Flooded Capital; 300-Plus Dead

Image: Grim Search Resumes in Sierra Leone's Flooded Capital; 300-Plus Dead
(Reuters)

Tuesday, 15 August 2017 06:39 AM

Rescue workers resumed the grim task Tuesday of pulling bodies from destroyed houses and muddy pools in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, where more than 300 people have died in flooding and mudslides.

The government has promised relief to the more than 3,000 people left homeless, opening an emergency response center in the hilltop community of Regent, while Israel said it was sending aid as quickly as possible to the stricken west African city.

Registration centers to count the homeless were due to open across Freetown, a city of around one million people, while Interior Minister Paolo Conteh warned via Sierra Leone's state broadcaster that thousands of people remained missing.

Red Cross spokesman Patrick Massaquoi told AFP on Monday that the death toll was 312 but this is expected to rise further as his team assess disaster areas in Freetown and tally the number of dead.

President Ernest Bai Koroma appealed for unity from a nation still struggling with the legacy of Ebola and a long civil war in an address to the nation on Monday.

"Our nation has once again been gripped by grief. Many of our compatriots have lost their lives, many more have been gravely injured and billions of leones' worth of property destroyed in the flooding and landslides that swept across some parts of our city," he said.

"Every single family, every single ethnic group, every single region is either directly or indirectly affected by this disaster."

Three days of torrential rain culminated on Monday in a mudslide in Regent, the worst affected area, and caused massive flooding elsewhere in the city, one of the world's wettest urban areas.

Informal settlements that cling to the hills and shores were swept away or torn apart, and the city's drainage system was quickly overwhelmed, leaving stagnant water pooling in some areas and creating dangerous churning waterways down steep streets.

"In places, entire communities seem to have been washed away and whatever is left is covered in mud," said Abdul Nasir, programme coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

He described Red Cross volunteers "digging with their bare hands and whatever tools (were) available to find survivors."

The Sierra Leone meteorological department did not issue any warning ahead of the torrential rains to hasten evacuation from the disaster zones, AFP's correspondent based in Freetown said.

Israel's foreign ministry said it would provide "assistance immediately and in every way possible" including clean water, medicines, blankets, while EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides said the European Union "stands ready to help," without elaborating.

The scale of the human cost was clear at the city's main morgue at the Connaught Hospital, which was overwhelmed with bodies on Monday, while residents spoke of their struggles to cope with the destruction and find their loved ones.

An AFP journalist saw several homes submerged in Regent village, a hilltop community, and corpses floating in the water in the Lumley West area of the city.

Deputy Information Minister Cornelius Deveaux confirmed on Monday that Koroma had declared a national emergency, and said his own boss, Information Minister Mohamed Bangura, was in hospital after being injured in the flooding.

Deveaux said hundreds of people had lost their lives and had properties damaged, and promised food and other assistance for the victims.

Freetown is hit each year by flooding during several months of rain, raising the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera.

Flooding in the capital in 2015 killed 10 people and left thousands homeless.

Sierra Leone was one of the west African nations hit by an outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014 that left more than 4,000 people dead in the country, and it has struggled to revive its economy since the crisis.

The country ranked 179th out of 188 countries on the UNDP's 2016 Human Development Index, a basket of data combining life expectancy, education and income and other factors.

© AFP 2018

   
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Rescue workers resumed the grim task Tuesday of pulling bodies from destroyed houses and muddy pools in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, where more than 300 people have died in flooding and mudslides. The government has promised relief to the more than 3,000 people left...
Sierra Leone, flood, disaster
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2017-39-15
Tuesday, 15 August 2017 06:39 AM
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