Freetown, Sierra Leone | AFP | Aid workers in Sierra Leone warned of a humanitarian crisis on Friday as the official death toll passed 400, with more than a hundred children among the victims — and a similar number orphaned.
Heavy rains that hit the capital Freetown on Monday triggered the partial collapse of a hillside that engulfed homes and caused massive destruction across the coastal capital.
By Friday, the rescue operation had evolved into a protracted search for 600 missing people, whom officials said were unlikely to be alive.
The uncollected corpses pose a serious risk to public health, Save the Children said on Friday.
“Two suspected cases of cholera have already been reported by rescue teams,” Save the Children said in a statement.
“Dead bodies can still be found in water sources and outbreaks of diarrhoea, malaria and other deadly diseases remain a serious risk,” it added.
The agency is distributing sanitary and hygiene products in Freetown.
For the first time Friday, the Red Cross confirmed an official death toll of more than 400.
According to Save The Children, 122 of the dead were children and it said that the disaster had also orphaned 123 children.
Earlier Friday the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, Elhadj As Sy, warned that many of the estimated 3,000 displaced were still sleeping outside “because there are not enough shelters for everybody.”
Sy said the government of the west African country was facing a crisis “way beyond (its) capacity” and appealed to the international community to significantly ramp up its support.
The organisation has warned that smaller mudslides have occurred since Monday in eastern Freetown and in Sierra Leone’s second city of Bo, with the rainy season far from over.
More than 300 victims were buried on Thursday in a ceremony in the nearby town of Waterloo to clear the overwhelmed central morgue. They were laid to rest alongside victims of the country’s last crisis, Ebola.