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Flooding sweeps through Sierra Leone’s capital, 312 dead


West Africa–– Sustained flooding has hit Sierra Leone over the weekend to early Monday, killing hundreds of people and destroying massive number of properties.

Dead bodies from the flood

At least 312 people were killed and more than 2,000 left homeless on Monday when heavy flooding hit the West African nation’s capital Freetown.  Eye witnesses say several morgues are overflowing and residents are desperately searching for loved ones.

Observers say bodies are being carried away and houses submerged in two areas of the city, where roads turned into mixing rivers of mud and corpses washed up on the streets.

Patrick Massaquoi, a Red Cross spokesman, said the death toll was more than 312 but could rise further as his team continued to survey disaster areas in the capital to tally the number of dead.

A morgue technician at the Freetown’s Connaught Hospital, Mohamed Sinneh, said about 180 bodies had been received so far at his facility alone.  He said many of the dead were children.  He described the situation as “overwhelming number of dead”.

Mudslide throughout the capital, Freetown

Sinneh said that due to the lack of space, many more bodies were taken to private morgues.

A Freetown resident, Fatmata Sesay, who lives on the hilltop area of Juba, said she, her three children and husband were awoken at 4:30 am by rain that beat down on the mud house they occupy, which was by then submerged by water.

The family, however, managed to escape by climbing onto the roof of their home. “We have lost everything and we do not have a place to sleep,” Fatmata said.

Meanwhile, a disaster management official, Candy Rogers said that, “over 2,000 people are homeless,” hinting at the huge humanitarian effort that will be required to deal with the fallout of the flooding in one of Africa’s poorest nations.

More and more dead bodies floating around the city

Sierra Leone experienced years of bloody civil war in which thousands of people were killed and millions more displaced in the 1990s.  The capital Freetown, an overcrowded coastal city of 1.2 million, is hit each year by flooding during several months of rain that destroys makeshift settlements and raises the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera and skin ailments.

In 2015, flooding in the capital Freetown killed 10 people and left thousands homeless. The country was also one of the West African nations hit by an outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014.  The Ebola crisis left more than 4,000 people dead.  Since the Ebola outbreak ended, the country has been trying to recover economically.

According to the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme, an estimated 60 percent of the country’s population lives below the national poverty line. 

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Ben Mabande

Ben Mabande is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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