Death toll up to 450 in Sierra Leone mudslides

"We still have hope to find survivors but the chances are getting smaller every day".

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Friday said that more than 400 people had lost their lives in the mudslides that had occurred on August 14 and that several hundred people were still missing, meaning that the death toll could still increase.

Burials and rescue efforts pressed on amid the threat of further disaster.

The government has hired 600 gravediggers for burials in a cemetery were victims of the 2014 Ebola outbreak are buried.

"The scale of the damage is unprecedented", said UN Children's Fund UNICEF Representative Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim, noting that at least 109 children were among the several hundred people killed in the disaster that struck on Monday.

Further landslides are possible and the government may have to evacuate some areas, the United Nations humanitarian aid coordination agency said in a statement on Thursday.

Death toll up to 450 in Sierra Leone mudslides
Death toll up to 450 in Sierra Leone mudslides

Togo's Head of State, and Chairperson of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, as well as the West African Community expressed their affinity with the people of Sierra Leone. Rainfall is in the forecast for the coming days, slowing recovery efforts.

Many poor areas around Freetown are near sea level and lack good drainage, which makes flooding worse during the rainy season. The Red Cross has reported that some 600 persons are still missing.

Citizens and experts alike have questioned why the government has not done more to tackle illegal construction and deforestation on the outskirts of the overcrowded capital of Freetown.

In Pentagon, the community directly below Regent where rocks and mud rained down on homes on Monday, resident Tamba James said the future looked bleak. Malaria is also a concern, as numerous estimated 3,000 homeless are sleeping without mosquito nets. "My body is paining me", she said.

Rtd Chief Justice Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh, the Sierra Leonean High Commissioner to Ghana, applauded the institutions for the support and said Ghana had remained committed to deepening the bilaterally relations between her and Sierra Leone.

  • Jon Douglas