Sierra Leone’s president Ernest Bai Koroma said that his country needs urgent support after devastating flash floods and mudslides near the capital city, Freetown.
Speaking on Tuesday, August 15, Koroma noted the disaster has particularly hit the hillside community of Regent. Heavy rains on Monday caused a landslide that engulfed more than a hundred homes, including some three or four stories tall.
Chief coroner Seneh Dumbuya told Reuters news agency that nearly 400 bodies had been found so far, and that he expects the death toll to surpass 500.
Many people were trapped by tons of dirt as they slept. The Red Cross estimates that 600 people are still missing. The charity is struggling to bring enough equipment to the site to excavate people who may be buried. However, Interior Minister Paolo Conteh told the state-run Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation that thousands of people remained missing.
Freetown City Council environmental protection officer Sulaiman Parker said that bodies of people recovered from the landslide would be buried in the next 48 hours.
“We are going to open churches to provide shelter. We hope to provide food, clothing, blankets, and water. And we are working with other agencies to see how best we can address the situation.”
Tearfund representative Gaston Slanwa
Slanwa also said that there was a risk of further flooding.
“I have never seen anything like it. A river of mud came out of nowhere and swallowed entire communities, just wiped them away. We are racing against time, more flooding, and the risk of disease to help these affected communities survive and cope with their loss.”
International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies program coordinator Abdul Nasir
The United Kingdom and Israel have committed to sending aid as quickly as possible, including clean water, medicine, and blankets.
Sierra Leone has opened an emergency response center for the over 3,000 people left homeless by the flooding and opened four registration centers.