Liberia's president has sacked 10 government officials for failing to return to the West African nation and lead the fight against the deadly Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 1,100 Liberians.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf dismissed the senior officials, who include six assistant ministers, two deputy ministers and two commissioners, late on Saturday, for being "out of the country without an excuse", a statement from the president's office said.

"These government officials showed insensitivity to our national tragedy and disregard for authority," it added.

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They were initially told in August to return to the country.

Liberia has been hit hard by the Ebola epidemic, with more than 1,137 recorded deaths out of 2,081 cases, more than half of them in the last three weeks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the epidemic is spreading exponentially in Liberia, where more than half of the deaths have been recorded. It has said that thousands are at risk of contagion in the coming weeks.

The contagious, haemorrhagic fever was first discovered in eastern Guinea in March and has since killed more than 2,400 people, making it the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

The dreaded virus has taken a particularly heavy toll on healthcare workers who have stationed themselves on the front lines of the fight, operating in fragile healthcare systems that have been stretched to breaking point.

Sierra Leonean doctor dies

A fourth Sierra Leonean doctor died on Sunday after contracting the disease, as a Dutch charity repatriated two doctors suspected of having been contaminated with the virus.

Olivette Buck was head of the Lumley Health Centre in a densely populated suburb west of the capital Freetown. She tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, apparently contracting it as she treated an Ebola patient.

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"I can confirm that doctor Olivette Buck died between last night and this morning," Jarrah Kawusu-Konteh, of the State House communication unit, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, two Dutch doctors who may have been contaminated have been repatriated to the Netherlands, and are undergoing tests to confirm whether or not they have the disease, a spokeswoman for the foundation they work for has said.

More than 300 health workers have become infected with Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nearly half of them have died, according to the WHO.

The infections have exacerbated shortages of doctors and nurses in West African countries that were already low on skilled health personnel.

So far, only foreign health and aid workers have been evacuated abroad from Sierra Leone and Liberia for treatment.

Source: Agencies