SBS AFRICAN

Mudslide toll climbs as questions asked of Sierra Leone government

Workers dig mass graves for those who perished in a mudslide at a site in Waterloo, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's chief coroner says rescue workers have unearthed around 500 bodies since last week's devastating landslide near the capital, Freetown.

One of Africa's worst flooding-related disasters in years occurred when the side of Mount Sugar Loaf collapsed after heavy rain, burying parts of Regent town and overwhelming relief efforts in one of the world's poorest countries.

Authorities have buried more than 499 bodies in hastily-dug graves after the mudslide near Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown.

The new burials are near the site of a mass burial for victims of the Ebola crisis that killed 4,000 people in the former British colony between 2014 and 2016.

The Red Cross says over 600 people are still missing and officials say they are racing to recover bodies from the debris to stop them potentially contaminating the water supply.

A staff member from the Sierra Leone Disaster Warning System says more help is needed.

"We haven't got enough resources coming yet, because it's an ongoing thing. Some organisations have offered some medication, welfare, also food, supplies, but it's not enough. We still need more to come in, because as you can see there's a multitude of survivors here as well."

The threat of deadly landslides is growing in west and central Africa with increasing rainfall and deforestation and rising urban populations.

On Thursday, a landslide in remote eastern Congo crushed the mud houses of a lake-side fishing village, potentially killing more than 200 people.

As for those in Sierra Leone they continue to struggle with the aftermath of the landslide.

Falma Syllar is a Community Chief in the affected area.

"I can't say this is the work of the devil, but if this is the work of god then I am not sure what lesson he is trying to teach us. We are hungry, we have nowhere to sleep and we have lost our precious families."

Susan Shepler, a west Africa analyst at the American University in the United States, has told Al Jazeera this disaster marks a change that the country's government is going to have to address.

"There are the poor slum dwellers who live in the bay areas who are flooded out almost every year. But this mud slide was different because it's affecting people who were able to build stronger houses, but built them in places that were environmentally unstable. And the government has been unable to restrict people from building in places that everyone knows could cause problems down the line and now we're beginning to see the impact of some of that lack of planning and lack of control on behalf of the government."

 

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