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Search resumes for dead in flooded Sierra Leone city

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-08-16 08:48
Search resumes for dead in flooded Sierra Leone city

Chinese rescuers in Freetown say disaster worse than expected

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone - Rescue workers resumed the grim task on Tuesday of pulling bodies from destroyed houses and muddy pools in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, where more than 300 people have died in flooding and mudslides.

The government has promised relief to the more than 3,000 people left homeless, opening an emergency response center in the hilltop community of Regent, while Israel said it was sending aid as quickly as possible to the stricken west African city.

Registration centers to count the homeless were due to open across Freetown, a city of around one million people, while Interior Minister Paolo Conteh warned via Sierra Leone's state broadcaster that thousands of people remained missing.

Some Chinese workers in the country offered their help saying on Tuesday that the situation is worse than they expected.

"The mudslide was massive with a large part of the hill collapsing. I'm afraid homes stretching for a few kilometers might have been buried," said Liu Yu, a member of a Chinese medical team based in Sierra Leone.

Wang Bo, a staff member of China Railway Seventh Group who rushed to the site, said: "A total of 35 staff members of our company were quickly mobilized and dispatched to help with the rescue efforts.

"Based on the conditions at the site, only mechanical equipment can be deployed to conduct rescue work because it is very hard to do the work with bare hands," said Wang, who also called for a coordinated rescue plan. The spokesman for the Sierre Leone Red Cross Patrick Massaquoi said on Monday that the death toll was 312, but the number is expected to rise.

President Ernest Bai Koroma appealed for unity in a nation still struggling with the legacy of Ebola and a long civil war in an address on Monday.

"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."

Worst affected area

Three days of torrential rain culminated on Monday in a mudslide in Regent, the worst affected area, and caused massive flooding elsewhere in the city, one of the world's wettest urban areas.

Informal settlements that clung to the hills were swept away or torn apart, and the city's drainage system was quickly overwhelmed, leaving stagnant water pooling in some areas and creating dangerous churning waterways down steep streets.

"In places, entire communities seem to have been washed away and whatever is left is covered in mud," said Abdul Nasir, program coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

He described Red Cross volunteers "digging with their bare hands and whatever tools (were) available to find survivors".

The Sierra Leone meteorological department did not issue any warning ahead of the torrential rains to hasten evacuation from the disaster zones, Agence France-Presse reported.

The African Union on Tuesday called for support from Africa and the international partners to Sierra Leone.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said it would provide "assistance immediately and in every way possible" including clean water, medicines, blankets, while EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides said the European Union "stands ready to help"

Afp - Xinhua - Ap

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