Mudslides in Sierra Leone’s capital city Freetown on Monday August 14 killed over 300 people. Cordaid’s team in Sierra Leone is coordinating with Caritas partners to provide relief aid to victims of the disasters in communities that were the most affected. Our colleague Ngozi Monica Cole reports from Freetown.
Most victims come from informal settlements
“Heavy rains created flooding and mudslides, causing what has been described as one of the deadliest natural disasters in Africa in recent years. In the village of Regent, on the outskirts of Freetown, a huge chunk of Sugar Loaf mountain collapsed on houses, some made from concrete and some made from tin. According to the Office of National Security, over 2000 people have been estimated to be homeless and over 300 people have died according to the Red Cross, with many more missing.
Some families were wiped out, where in some cases, only children survived or were rescued. Most of the victims lived in little shacks and tin houses in informal settlements at the bottom of the mountain, and in other areas affected in Freetown, the victims were slum-dwellers living near the sea-level, close to rivers and streams, with very poor or no drainage or irrigation systems.
Sia Fayia, Office Support Officer at Cordaid country office, lost a neighbor in the mudslide. The family of four were completely buried under the rubble and only two of the bodies have been recovered. The neighbor, 27-year-old Sia Kelly, was a final year student at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. “We’ve never seen anything like this before, this is beyond shocking”, Sia Fayia lamented.
Cordaid’s team in Sierra Leone is coordinating with Caritas partners to provide relief aid victims of the disasters in communities that were the most affected.
Rescue efforts ongoing
Approximately 600 people are still unaccounted for as registration centers have been opened in four sections of Freetown, to account for survivors and look out for missing family members. As the Government of Sierra Leone declares 7 days of national mourning, emergency response groups continue to excavate bodies, and the national morgue has been filled with the dead. In the Regent community, bodies of those trapped under the rubble and debris were being pulled out till late afternoon on Monday, with rescue efforts and excavations continuing onto Tuesday and Wednesday.
Effects of poor drainage and deforestation
Many areas in Freetown are prone to such disasters, because of poor drainage and irrigation systems as well as deforestation for construction. And many of the communities who live in high-risk disaster-prone areas are informal settlements, made from a conglomeration of shacks and poorly-built houses. More heavy rains have been forecasted for August and September, and may areas remain at risk.
We’re also embarking on a post-disaster relief plan to prevent risk of cholera.
First response: food, water, clothes and medicine
Cordaid’s team in Sierra Leone is coordinating with Caritas partners to provide relief aid victims of the disasters in communities that were the most affected, as well as resource support to the emergency response center in Regent. Food, water, clothes and medicine are urgently needed for the survivors and resource support needed as well for the volunteers at the disaster sites.
Preventing an outbreak of cholera
Sierra Leone, which suffered from an Ebola epidemic from 2014-2016, as well as another flooding disaster in 2015 which left thousands homeless, remains in a state of fragility and constant humanitarian assistance as Government ministries do not have sufficient resources to tackle the stream of emergencies. A cholera outbreak is feared and Cordaid is also embarking on a post-disaster relief plan which will involve a communications campaign to sensitize communities on how to properly prevent risk of cholera, diarrhea and typhoid, which are common outbreaks in the wake of such natural disasters.”