Sierra Leone: Death toll from landslide nears 500

Government calls for 10,000 people to evacuate as more than 600 remain missing after devastating landslides.

    The death toll from a devastating landslide and flooding that hit Sierra Leone earlier this week has risen to nearly 500, according to hospital officials. 

    More than 600 people remained missing on Sunday, with rescue officials warning that the chances of finding survivors are decreasing each day. The death toll earlier stood at 450.

    One of Africa's worst flooding-related disasters in years occurred when the side of Mount Sugar Loaf collapsed on Monday after heavy rain, burying parts of Regent town on the outskirts of the capital, Freetown.

    READ MORE: Sierra Leone mudslide: What, where and why?

    Churches across the country held special services on Sunday in memory of those killed. 

    Authorities this week buried 461 bodies in quickly-dug graves in the nearby Waterloo Cemetery. 

    Six days after the mudslide, at least 10,000 people have already been forced from their homes. 

    The government has called for the evacuation of another 10,000 people living on an unstable hillside in Freetown, where a large crack has opened. 

    'It took everything away'

    Displaced survivors have been returning to where their homes once stood to search for missing loved ones and retrieve belongings.

    For some, the scenes of the catastrophe are still fresh. 

    "It was so strong," Bakary Conte, a hillside resident told Al Jazeera. "It took everything away. There is nothing to save. I don't want to live here any more. I am afraid."

    Improvised centres have been set up by aid agencies to help those affected. 

    Foreign aid from the rest of the world is being sent to Freetown, according to authorities.

    Aid groups are providing clean water as a health crisis looms.

    Shelters for those displaced are yet to be organised and for the moment, only milk and bread are being distributed to the affected community. 

    "We are hungry, we have nowhere to sleep, and we've lost our precious families," community chief Falma Sylla told Al Jazeera. 

    READ MORE: Is climate change to blame in Freetown?

    Reporting from Freetown, Al Jazeera's Nicolas Haque said village community leaders decide who receives aid from the relief centres.  

    "The centres are overrun and overcrowded and so relief workers have called on armed guards to come and bring order back," he said.

    The threat of deadly landslides is growing in parts of West and Central Africa as rainfall, deforestation and urban populations rise, experts say.

    On Wednesday, at least 200 people were killed in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a landslide swept through a fishing village on the banks of Lake Albert in Ituri province.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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