Published: Fri, August 18, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Environmental failure caused Sierra Leone flood disaster - Amnesty

Environmental failure caused Sierra Leone flood disaster - Amnesty

Rescue workers have recovered almost 400 bodies from a mudslide in the outskirts of Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, the chief coroner said on Tuesday, as rescue operations continued and morgues struggled to find space for all the dead.

The death toll from massive mudslides in Sierra Leone's capital was certain to rise Tuesday as bodies washed up on a beach and workers searched for an untold number of people buried in their homes.

Adele Fox, national health coordinator for Sierra Leone at the charity Concern Worldwide, said the search for bodies continued but the survivors were facing hard conditions.

On Wednesday, thousands of people gathered outside the morgue at Connaught Hospital in Freetown, hoping to find the bodies of their relatives.

Burials have begun, and each person will be buried individually in a dignified manner, said the deputy minister of information and communications, Cornelius Deveaux.

At the city's Connaught Hospital morgue, firefighters, military personnel, police and volunteers tried to help grieving survivors with the hard process of finding their dead relatives, many too mangled and decomposed to be identified.

Paolo Conteh, the interior minister, told Sierra Leone's state broadcaster that thousands of people remained missing.

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Around 600 people are still unaccounted for after heavy rains struck the Regent district in the early hours of Monday, according to government officials and aid agencies.

While the mudslides have left death and destruction behind them, the Director and Representative of the World Food Program (WFP) in Sierra Leone, Housainou Taal, said his United Nations agency is "focusing on survivors so that they can rise and move forward". "I've spoken with other family members and we have made a decision to allow the government to go ahead with dignified burial process".

Another survivor, Hawa Stevens, spoke through tears as she talked about the 28 family members she lost in the mudslides.

Meanwhile, the Queen sent a message of sympathy to the Sierra Leone president.

"... Tobinco has come on board expressing willingness to donate some medicine so we also wish that the good people of this country to take this cue from Tobinco and donate whatever; be it used-clothing, some food, some medicine, mosquito nets, blankets - we will all add these up".

Emergency response teams have raced to dig out survivors and dispose of bodies but the central morgue is overwhelmed and many bodies are feared trapped under mud and rubble.

Contaminated water and water-logging often lead to potentially deadly diseases like cholera and diarrhea after floods and mudslides.

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