August 15, 2017 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
Hundreds of People were seen wailing at the country’s main hospital morgue yesterday, scrambling to identify dead relatives and loved ones after a deadly mudslide in the earlier hours of Monday killing over 200 people and left over 2,500 homeless.
The country has experienced flooding in the past years but nothing compared in magnitude to yesterday’s mudslide caused by torrential rain.
Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Cornelius Deveaux, told a presser at an emergency press briefing that the exact death toll from the mudslide and flooding was yet to be known, but head of the Connaught Mortuary, Sinneh Kamara, said over 200 bodies, some mutilated, have been conveyed to the morgue.
The sheer scale of the disaster left many Freetown residents perplexed and fearful as this the peak of the raining season. As a result, many stayed indoors as rescue and recovery efforts continued throughout the day by government agencies, non-governmental organisations and volunteers.
Communities at Regent, Sugar Loaf, Motormeh, Kamayama, Kaningo, Dwazark, New England Ville, Kroobay, Mountain Cut, George Brook, Big Wharf and Wellington were worst affected by the heavy downpours that started in the early hours of Monday.
An eye witness says the section of Sugar Loaf Mountain caved in at a time when many people were at home sleeping.
An excavator was used by the rescue team to plough the mountainside for dead bodies and ambulances, while heavy trucks rushed back and forth to the city centre with corpses and few injured victims.
Officials from the military, police, fire force, Sierra Leone Red Cross, Office of National Security and youth were helping to remove victims from the mire.
An eye witness at the Juba community, Shan Wilson, told Concord Times that over 30 dead bodies were discovered so far in a nearby stream.
“What I saw was very pathetic. This disaster is unprecedented. Many dead bodies have been removed from the mud. I can’t stand it but to shed tears. Most of the victims are decapitated,” he said.
He said two bridges at the Juba community were washed away by the erosion, thus trapping dozens of people.
The increasingly frequent flooding in Sierra Leone is not unprecedented. On 16 September, 2015 Freetown experienced another flooding which left about 10 people dead, mainly those that were living in vulnerable communities.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister of Information revealed that an emergency response and registration centre have been established at police stations in Regent, Lumley, Central Freetown and Ross Road to register victims.
Also, unconfirmed report says the residence of the country’s Minister of Information and Communication was among houses that were destroyed by the mudslide.
As at press time, Concord Times could not confirm the exact number of death as a Director at the Office of National Security (ONS), Languba Kellie, said they could not provide exact figures while rescue operation was still ongoing.
“We would provide you the total figure by tomorrow [Tuesday] because we are still tallying as the rescue operation is still ongoing,” he said.
Meanwhile, in his address to the nation, President Koroma urged everyone to remain calm and to avoid disaster – prone areas “while we continue to address this grave emergency.