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312 dead as mudslides, flooding sweep through Sierra Leone capital

FREETOWN: At least 312 people were killed and more than 2,000 left homeless on Monday when heavy flooding hit Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown, leaving excavators to pull bodies from the rubble and overwhelming the city’s morgues.

An AFP journalist saw several homes submerged in Regent village, a hilltop community, and corpses floating in the water in the Lumley West area of the city, as the president assured emergency services were doing all they could to tackle one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the city.

Red Cross spokesman Patrick Massaquoi told the death toll was 312 but could rise further as his team continued to survey disaster areas in Freetown and tally the number of dead.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, according to UN indicators.

“I counted over 300 bodies and more are coming,” Mohamed Sinneh, a morgue technician at Freetown’s Connaught Hospital, told , having earlier described an “overwhelming number of dead” at the facility leaving no space to lay out every body.

Many more of the dead were taken to private morgues, Sinneh said.

President Ernest Bai Koroma said in an address to the nation broadcast on television late Monday that an emergency response centre had been established at Regent, the worst-affected area.

He appealed for unity from a nation still struggling with the legacy of Ebola and a long civil war.

“Our nation has once again been gripped by grief. Many of our compatriots have lost their lives, many more have been gravely injured and billions of Leones’ worth of property destroyed in the flooding and landslides that swept across some parts of our city,” he said.

“Every single family, every single ethnic group, every single region is either directly or indirectly affected by this disaster,” Koroma said.

He announced that centres would be set up across the city to register those made homeless and praised the military, police and Red Cross volunteers, deployed in an all-out effort to locate those trapped.

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Azhar Hashmi

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