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Sierra Leone declares seven-day mourning for mudslide victims

News Agencies | Updated on: 16 August 2017, 10:43 IST

Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma has declared a seven-day state mourning in honor of the victims of a devastating mudslide by terming the disaster as the worst in Africa over the past two decades.

The President has also appealed for urgent help to support the thousands of people affected by a devastating mudslide and declared the calamity a national emergency caused by heavy rains and flooding in the country's capital Freetown, which has left 400 people dead and 600 missing.

The national mourning period will take place from  16 August to 22  August and flags will be flown at half-mast. The general public will also observe a minute of silence on mid-day on 17 August .

President Koroma said, in a televised address to the nation, that he was "very disturbed by this national tragedy," and promised to create an emergency response center in Regent, a neighbourhood, where dozens of people were thought to be trapped inside homes buried under soaked earth cleaved from the hillside.

Health officials at Sierra Leone's Connaught Hospital said over 400 corpses had been collected from the rubble as a rescue mission continues.

"As of now, we have collected over 400 corpses. Our facility has been over-stretched and more corpses are being brought in. Throughout my entire career, I have never witnessed a grave situation like this," the Anadolu news agency quoted Sinneh Kamara, assistant officer at the hospital's mortuary, as saying.

The victims have also been asked to identify their relatives at the mortuary ahead of a mass burial. Unidentified corpses will also be given a dignified burial, the government said.

Alpha Conde, president of Guinea and head of the African Union, arrived in Freetown on late Tuesday to offer his sympathies to the government and people.

Israel becomes the first country to extend assistance to disaster-hit Sierra Leone by delivering food aid for 10,000 meals.

"We will work with the Sierra Leone Government to provide more medical aid in the coming weeks," Israel's Ambassador to West Africa Paul Hirshson said.

The Commonwealth and the African Union also offered condolences to the people of Sierra Leone and promised to support the country.

The Red Cross said hundreds of people had been killed and 600 were missing after torrential rains caused mudslides on 14 August and transformed city streets into fast-moving rivers of muddy water, washing away everything in their path. 


First published: 16 August 2017, 10:43 IST