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SIERRA LEONE: 312 dead as mudslides sweep Freetown

Freetown, Sierra Leone | AFP | At least 312 people were killed and more than 2,000 left homeless on Monday when heavy flooding hit Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown, leaving excavators to pull bodies from rubble and overwhelming the city’s morgues.

An AFP journalist saw several homes submerged in Regent village, a hilltop community, and corpses floating in the water in the Lumley West area of the city, as the government held an emergency meeting to plan its response to one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the city.

Red Cross spokesman Patrick Massaquoi told AFP the death toll was 312 but could rise further as his team continued to survey disaster areas in Freetown and tally the number of dead.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, according to UN indicators.

“I counted over 300 bodies and more are coming,” Mohamed Sinneh, a morgue technician at Freetown’s Connaught Hospital, told AFP, having earlier described an “overwhelming number of dead” at the facility leaving no space to lay out every body.

Many more of the dead were taken to private morgues, Sinneh said.

Sierra Leone’s military, police and Red Cross volunteers were meanwhile deployed in an all out effort to locate and rescue citizens trapped in their homes or under rubble.

Images obtained by AFP showed ferocious, churning dark-orange mud coursing down a steep street in the capital, while videos posted by local residents showed people waist- or chest-deep in water trying to cross the road.

The Sierra Leone meteorological department did not issue any warning ahead of the torrential rains to hasten evacuation from the disaster zones, AFP’s correspondent based in Freetown said.

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