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At least 300 dead in Sierra Leone mudslides and flooding

Updated: 2017-08-15 10:02

At least 300 dead in Sierra Leone mudslides and flooding

People inspect the damage after a mudslide in the mountain town of Regent, Sierra Leone August 14, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Mudslides and torrential flooding killed more than 300 people in and around Sierra Leone's capital early Monday following heavy rains, with many victims trapped in homes buried under tons of mud.

Survivors and volunteers dug through the mud and debris at times with their bare hands in a desperate search for missing relatives, and military personnel were deployed to help with the rescue operation in the West African nation.

Sierra Leone's national broadcaster announced late Monday that the death toll had risen above 300. Initial Red Cross estimates said as many as 3,000 people were left homeless by the disaster and that figure was expected to rise. Communications and electricity also were affected.

The mortuary at Connaught Hospital was overwhelmed by the number of dead, and bodies had to be spread out on the floor, coroner's technician Sinneh Kamara said.

The toll did not include the untold numbers buried alive in their homes as they slept. More bodies also were expected to be found as floodwaters receded.

In an interview with the Sierra Leone National Broadcasting Corp., Kamara urged the health department to deploy more ambulances to bolster the four belonging to the hospital.

The broadcaster interrupted regular programming to show scenes of people trying to retrieve the bodies of relatives, and some were shown carrying the dead to the morgue in rice sacks.

The president's office released a statement encouraging people to relocate to safer parts of Freetown and sign up at registration centers. The office made no mention of the death toll.

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