300 killed by mudslides in Sierra Leone, death toll could rise

Massive mudslides triggered by heavy rainfall in the capital of Sierra Leone have killed more than 300 people and volunteers are digging through mud and debris in a desperate search for survivors.

world Updated: Aug 15, 2017 16:41 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone,massive mudslides,300 dead in Sierra Leone
Heavy equipment is used as rescue workers search for survivors and victims following a mudslide in Regent, east of Freetown, Sierra Leone, on August 14, 2017. Mudslides and torrential flooding have killed many people in and around Sierra Leone's capital following heavy rains, with many victims thought to be trapped in homes buried under tons of mud. (AP)

The death toll from massive mudslides in Sierra Leone’s capital was certain to rise on Tuesday as workers searched for an untold number of people buried in their homes.

Authorities say more than 300 were killed in and around Freetown on Monday following heavy rains. Many victims were trapped under tons of mud as they slept.

Some rescue workers and volunteers were digging through the mud and debris with their bare hands in a desperate search for missing relatives. Military personnel have been deployed to help with the operation in the impoverished West African nation.

Close-up map of Freetown, hit by massive flooding which has left hundreds of people dead. (AFP)

More bodies were expected to be found as floodwaters receded.

Initial Red Cross estimates have said as many as 3,000 people are left homeless and the figure is expected to rise. Communications and electricity also have been affected.

The mortuary at Connaught Hospital has been overwhelmed by the number of dead, with bodies spread out on the floor.

In this photo taken on August 14, 2017, crowds gather outside the Connaught Hospital, waiting for loved ones outside a mortuary in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (AP)

The Sierra Leone National Broadcasting Corp showed people trying to retrieve the bodies of relatives, and others carrying the dead to the morgue in rice sacks.

The president’s office released a statement encouraging people to relocate to safer parts of Freetown and sign up at registration centers. The office made no mention of a death toll.

“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.

A torrent of water flows through a flooded neighbourhood in Regent, east of Freetown, Sierra Leone, on August 14 , 2017. (AP)

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 is also 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 are often clogged because of garbage dumping due to insufficient sanitation services in many areas.

First Published: Aug 15, 2017 16:41 IST