Health Ministry is sending teams to fumigate disaster area
Authorities may have to evacuate more flood-prone areas
Sierra Leone braced for more floods as the country buries the casualties of a mudslide that killed hundreds of people in the capital, Freetown.
The government buried almost 300 people this week and the Health Ministry sent out teams to fumigate areas where decomposing bodies are trapped in the mud, Idalia Amaya, emergency response coordinator for Catholic Relief Services, said by phone from Freetown late Thursday. So far, 409 bodies have been removed from the rubble, the United Nations humanitarian aid coordination agency said in a statement on its website.
Rescue teams have received reports that some missing people are sending text messages saying they are trapped, Amaya said. The teams have been trying “to work on getting people out but it’s been raining and the mud is very thick and there aren’t enough machines” to clear it, she said.
Further landslides are possible and the government may have to evacuate some areas, the UN said.
August is the peak of the rainy season in Sierra Leone. Heavy rains were reported on Tuesday and Wednesday, the European Commission’s Emergency Management Service said on its website. More than 600 people remain missing and search operations are hampered by the continuous rain, the UN said.
“We want to give the victims a dignified burial,” the mayor of Freetown, Sam Gibson, told Radio Democracy on Thursday. After that, “we have to start working again to prepare the minds of everybody to steer clear of dangerous locations and flood-prone areas,” he said. “Everybody must be on the alert.”
Monday’s mudslide happened after a mountainside collapsed in Regent in the southeast of Freetown following torrential rains. The disaster came less than two years after the end of an Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa, with Sierra Leone one of the hardest-hit countries.
Deforestation and soil erosion probably contributed to the disaster, James Kamara, a spokesman for the Environment Protection Agency, said on Radio Democracy on Wednesday.
“The cutting of teak trees and bad environmental practices affected the soil,” he said. “We need to protect the environment. We have been working but we are still at the initial stages of our operations.”