At least 200 dead in Sierra Leone mudslides and flooding
Mudslides and torrential flooding killed at least 250 people in and around Sierra Leone's capital early yesterday following heavy rains, with many victims trapped in homes buried under tons of mud.
Survivors and volunteers dug through the mud and debris at times with their bare hands in a desperate search for missing relatives, and military personnel were deployed to help with the rescue operation in the West African nation.
Initial Red Cross estimates said that as many as 3,000 people have been left homeless by the disaster, and the figure is expected to rise. Communications and electricity also have been affected.
The mortuary at Connaught Hospital was overwhelmed by the number of dead, and bodies had to be spread out on the floor, said coroner's technician Sinneh Kamara.
Buried alive as they slept
At least 250 bodies had been brought to the facility already, and that toll did not include the untold numbers buried alive in their homes as they slept. More bodies also were expected to be found as floodwaters receded.
The president's office released a statement encouraging people to relocate to safer parts of Freetown and sign up at registration centres. The office made no mention of the death toll.
Homes were destroyed by the flooding, while others were inundated by the floods, leaving many without shelter. Some children have been separated from their families.
Many of the impoverished areas of Sierra Leone's capital are close to sea level and have poor drainage systems, exacerbating flooding during the rainy season.
Freetown also is plagued by unregulated building of large residential houses in hilltop areas.
Deforestation for firewood and charcoal is one of the leading factors of worsening flooding and mudslides. Freetown's drainage channels also are often clogged because of garbage dumping due to insufficient sanitation services in many areas.