Despite the beauty of nature, sometimes it does not appear to be kind to humanity. One scenario in which mother nature took an ugly turn occurred on Monday, August 14th after Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, was hit by a mudslide. A hill in the Regent area collapsed and hit around one hundred houses in the city outskirts, in what is considered the worst flood disaster in Africa over the past two decades. This is an incident that has shaken the country to its roots considering a long history of war and the recent deadly Ebola virus outbreak.
The mudslide traveled for up to two kilometers before trapping residents, some of who were still asleep on that said morning. The president of Sierra Leonne, Ernest Bai Koroma, declared a national emergency as rescue efforts continued on Tuesday, although hampered by the rough mountainous terrain and the magnitude of the mudslide.
This horrific disaster may be due in part to the country’s current rainy season as the rains could have possibly escalated into a flood. Sierra Leone is highly prone to flooding, but a disaster of this magnitude was unanticipated as the meteorological department did not issue a warning when the rains commenced. The houses in this area are also mainly tin-roofed wooden shacks that can barely withstand the speed and magnitude of the floods and an eventual landslide. The city has been recording higher amounts of rainfall with the U.S. National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center placing the average recorded between July and August 17, 2017, at 27 inches, which is twice more than 11.8 that Freetown often records.
In a sad turn of events, rescuers recovered 297 bodies including 109 children, 105 men, and 83 women while some 600 people still cannot be traced. Up to sixty people died in a community church. 3,000 people have survived and now there is a fear of the spread of waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera. Approximately 2,000 -3,000 people have been displaced as a result of this mudslide. The UN rescuers reported continuing with rescue efforts despite the mountainous and hilly terrain that was slippery and muddy. They have reported the possibility of a second mudslide as they are not certain of how the mudslide has affected the ground around the area.The United Nations is also making efforts to determine the likelihood of another slide using technology such as radar imagery, satellite data, and drone mapping. They are also running a risk analysis to get insight into which communities are susceptible and how they can prevent other mudslides from happening.
Some members of the community reported that they had not received any help from the government since the disaster struck and most are either struggling to find their families, shocked by the events or stranded. The Sierra Leonean government alongside the Red Cross have been moving the dead bodies to Connaught Hospital, based in Freetown. Mass burials are planned to take place on Thursday and Friday to free up mortuaries that are currently filled up. The president, on the other hand, has declared seven days of mourning following this misfortune. A construction company from China and a citizen of Sierra Leone have offered equipment to help in the excavation of bodies that have been lost under the rubble. This disaster is going to take the country a great time to recover.