Sierra Leone mudslides create waves of mass deaths and missing that is feared to number well into the thousands. Satellite imagery and government officials in the African nation paint a bleak picture in the aftermath of the deadly mudslides. It has been a week since torrential rains, boulders, and mud came fatally crashing down the slopes of Sugar Loaf Mountain in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Olivia Acland, a photographer from Freetown, told the Independent, “They smashed through people’s houses, and they’re still discovering body parts. There’s heads and feet and hands. It’s grizzly.”
The west African nation is no stranger to the human cost of catastrophic tragedy. Sierra Leone lost thousands in the deadly Ebola pandemic of 2014-2015. Once again, the eerie scene of health officials in Biohazard suits fill the streets of Freetown. Government authorities and international aid groups on the ground are preparing for the harsh realities of an impending Cholera outbreak.
Ramatu Jalloh, advocacy and communications director for Save the Children, communicated to the New York Times, “There is a high risk of an outbreak of waterborne diseases. Our priority is to prevent that from happening.” Jalloh’s fears are substantiated, as many of the bodies of the dead have washed up in the reservoirs and wells that comprise Freetown’s water sources.
Cholera outbreak fears are compounded by water pipelines being ruptured throughout the city. Getting clean drinking water to the homeless and displaced is a grave concern. Emergency workers are urgently working to replenish the insufficient Cholera vaccine reserves in the country.
Sayo Jalloh lost her son, a brother, and 15 extended family members in the deadly mudslides. Jalloh was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, stating as follows.
“I just keep wondering why I don’t see them or even dream about them. It just seems like when someone has traveled. I can’t even locate the house where I used to live anymore, other than to just point at the area.”
Sierra Leone faces a massive rebuilding effort. CNN reports, that an estimated 20,000 people have been displaced by the mudslides. Not assuaging matters, 5,000 of the displaced are children. Presidential spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay told CNN, “Sierra Leone is a small country with a small economy, and we cannot do this alone… we appeal very passionately to the world to come to (our) aid.”
Unregulated construction and deforestation are being identified as key contributing factors to making citizens of Sierra Leone vulnerable to floods and mudslides during the rainy season.
[Featured Image by Kabba Kargbo/AP Images]