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Mass burials continue in Sierra Leone

China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-18 09:22

FREETOWN - Mass burials continued on Thursday for the hundreds of victims of deadly mudslides in Sierra Leone's capital as the threat of more rain loomed, hurting recovery efforts.

Queen Elizabeth II expressed her sadness over the disaster that has killed more than 300 people. Some 600 are thought to still be missing as anguished family members and rescue workers continue to dig through tons of mud and debris, at times with their bare hands.

The monarch, in a message to President Ernest Bai Koroma, said she and Prince Philip were "deeply saddened". The United Nations reported that a mass burial has been held for 150 bodies.

Sierra Leone began a week of mourning on Wednesday as it emerged that 105 children were among the perished.

An independent but unofficial morgue estimate put the toll at 400 dead.

Koroma described the humanitarian challenge ahead as "overwhelming", saying flags would fly at half-mast and called for urgent help after visiting the devastated hilltop community of Regent on Tuesday.

Aid organizations meanwhile warned that the rainy season was not yet over and that more flooding could arrive at any moment in the west African coastal city of around a million people.

The government has promised relief for what the Red Cross says is more than 3,000 people left homeless by the disaster.

Several UN agencies have ramped up efforts in Freetown, including the World Food Program's distribution of two-week rations of rice, pulses and cooking oil to 7,500 people. The first Israeli aid packages arrived and west African governments delivered cash and rice.

Chinese companies and medical team members operating in the country on Wednesday donated $200,000 in cash as well as other materials toward the efforts of the government in trying to support people affected by the flood and mudslide disaster.

Speaking during the donation ceremony, charge d'affaires at the Chinese embassy Wang Xinmin said the people of China are with Sierra Leone during this moment of grief because the two countries are like brothers and sisters.

"Our hearts and minds are with the government and people of Sierra Leone in this time of difficulty. We are always with you. This donation is a token of our friendship and we will continue to do more," he said.

'Dignified burial'

At the city's overwhelmed Connaught Hospital morgue, many bodies are too mangled and decomposed to be identified. Koroma's office has said all unidentified corpses will be given a "dignified burial" in the coming days.

Some said they lost almost all of their family members.

"Mother, father, sisters, brothers, cousins all gone. My life has been shattered. ... Please help me God," Hawa Stevens sobbed as she waited in the pouring rain on Wednesday outside the mortuary to try to identify the bodies of her loved ones. She said she lost 28 relatives.

One woman collapsed after seeing her husband's dead body among the piles of corpses, amid a powerful stench of decomposing flesh.

The government said mass burials of unidentified bodies still at the morgue would take place on Thursday and Friday.

The victims will be laid to rest in graves alongside those of the country's last humanitarian disaster, the Ebola crisis, in nearby Waterloo.

Afp - Xinhua - Reuters

Mass burials continue in Sierra Leone

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