Concern responds to Sierra Leone mudslides

August 17, 2017
Written by Kristin Myers
Photo by John Cooper

Heavy rains have caused flash floods and mudslides in several parts of Freetown, Sierra Leone, with hundreds dead and many more homeless.

On August 14, a mudslide caused by heavy rains swept through Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, killing more than 400 people and displacing thousands.

Sierra Leone flooding

Photos taken during a needs assessment in Regent, Freetown, in Sierra Leone. Credit: Concern Worldwide

Home to around one million people, the city of Freetown has been built along heavily-forested mountain sides. Most of the city’s residents live in informal settlements: tiny tin shacks placed closely together wherever there is free space. To accommodate the growing population, local communities have deforested the area, destabilizing the soil. When the rains come, rivers of dirt and debris rush down the mountains towards the sea, impacting thousands of vulnerable families along the way.

The Regent area of the city suffered the most critical damage with reports of dozens of houses being submerged when the nearby Sugar Loaf Mountain collapsed.

Rescue operations

Rescue operations are underway by the Office of National Security, Red Cross and local police in a bid to save as many people as possible currently trapped under the mudslide.

Sierra Leone’s interior minister, Paolo Conteh, has warned that thousands of people are still missing and called for urgent help as the search continues. The flooding is thought to be the worst in Africa over the past two decades.

People caught in flooding in Sierra Leone

People caught in dangerous flooding during a needs assessment of Regent, in Freetown, in Sierra Leone. Credit: Concern Worldwide

Concern’s response

With mortuaries overwhelmed, thousands left homeless and fears of diseases such as cholera and typhoid spreading, Concern is sending additional staff to help coordinate the relief efforts.

Speaking from flood damaged Freetown, Concern’s National Health Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Adèle Fox, said:

Bridges were destroyed, whole areas of housing were completely wiped away and many people buried within all of that mud.

Concern has worked in Sierra Leone since 1996 and has 157 staff in the country — with more on their way. Concern Worldwide is part of a consortium of aid agencies working together and with the government doing assessments and addressing immediate needs.

 


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