Over 1,500 still missing in Sierra Leone’s flood-hit capital as morgue overwhelmed

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A charity says more than 1,500 people are still missing in Sierra Leone’s capital and the death toll from mudslides and flooding will continue to rise.

People have been gathering at a morgue containing 270 bodies in Freetown, desperate for news of loved ones.

Authorities say at least 300 are feared to have died in a massive mudslide on the outskirts of the city.

Rescue operations continued on Tuesday, a day after victims were trapped under tons of mud as a hillside collapsed.

The British government has said it was ready to help.

People wait outside the central morgue and hospital in Freetown for news of loved ones Over 1,500 still missing in Sierra Leone's flood-hit capital as morgue overwhelmed Over 1,500 still missing in Sierra Leone’s flood-hit capital as morgue overwhelmed 2ee85fe86bddfb3dc3a5ce65907e83e3aabdd937dc46cc95b08245d0092c4db3 4074284
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People wait outside the central morgue and hospital in Freetown for news of loved ones

A mass burial was expected to take place on Tuesday to free up more space in the overwhelmed central mortuary.

President Ernest Bai Koroma asked residents of Regent and other flooded areas in Freetown to leave their homes so military personnel and other rescue workers could search for survivors.

Up to 3,000 people are said to have been left without shelter after floodwaters smashed through their homes amid heavy rain.

Many were taken to hospital in the aftermath of floods and landslips that ripped through Freetown Over 1,500 still missing in Sierra Leone's flood-hit capital as morgue overwhelmed Over 1,500 still missing in Sierra Leone’s flood-hit capital as morgue overwhelmed c0611400963095a41e51ce6dec51e3064a985dad80cd7f2cc97c94fc0a29e832 4074288
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Many were taken to hospital in the aftermath of floods and landslips that ripped through Freetown

Aid agencies said there were immediate concerns for thousands of people in the capital, who may not have access to water that is safe to drink.

ActionAid’s Humanitarian Director, Richard Miller, said: “While search and rescue is still ongoing, there are currently over 1,500 people reported missing – and this number is expected to rise.

“Our local aid workers in Sierra Leone are telling us that they are especially concerned for the welfare and safety of girls and women, who are the most vulnerable at this time.

Entire houses were buried under tons of mud Over 1,500 still missing in Sierra Leone's flood-hit capital as morgue overwhelmed Over 1,500 still missing in Sierra Leone’s flood-hit capital as morgue overwhelmed 0a4f663b9ee9ba7e96bf6475e2af978b59d36318a1ae3e2a9b7d42dde0bb664c 4074285
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Entire houses were buried under tons of mud

“We are working closely with them and other aid agencies to reach people in need as quickly and effectively as possible.”

The UK Government, which has an ongoing presence in Sierra Leone through the Department for International Development, said it has been investing in helping Sierra Leone prepare for disasters and responding to emergencies since the end of the Ebola crisis.

Sky News understands representatives from the UK are meeting officials in Sierra Leone to find out what help, if any, the Government of Sierra Leone requires.

A UK Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “A small number of UK personnel from the International Security Advisory Team in Freetown are assisting the Government of Sierra Leone in their response to the mudslide.”

International Development Secretary Priti Patel said: “I am deeply saddened by the devastating landslides and flooding in Freetown, Sierra Leone which have claimed innocent lives. My thoughts are with all those affected at this tragic time.

‎”From stopping the Ebola outbreak in its tracks to helping the country rebuild ‎after this deadly disease – the UK continues to stand by the people of Sierra Leone.

The mudslide in the mountain town of Regent, Sierra Leone Over 1,500 still missing in Sierra Leone's flood-hit capital as morgue overwhelmed Over 1,500 still missing in Sierra Leone’s flood-hit capital as morgue overwhelmed 92939370d1c33122a3ae4837fa1059929e56d35a923377b3daa771f9fd24caa3 4074267
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The mudslide in the mountain town of Regent, Sierra Leone

“We have pre-positioned vital aid supplies and helped prepare the country’s response to disasters. We are already working with the Government of Sierra Leone to coordinate the rescue ‎efforts and are ready to provide further assistance to those in need.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson added: “I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life. My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected at this horrific time. We are working with the Government of Sierra Leone to provide support where necessary.”

The EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, tweeted that the “#EU stands by the victims and is ready to help”.

Survivors and volunteers continued to search through the mud for their relatives, many of whom were feared to have been buried as they slept.

The Sierra Leone National Broadcasting Corporation showed images of people bringing bodies to the morgue in rice sacks.

Abdul Nasir, programme co-ordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said: “In places, entire communities seem to have been washed away and whatever is left is covered in mud.”



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