Sierra Leone’s government began burying more than 350 people killed earlier this week in mudslides in the country’s capital, Freetown.
Another 600 people remain unaccounted for, as workers sought to recover more bodies from the thick mud and debris of smashed homes.
Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koromo offered his condolences and support during a burial ceremony Thursday.
“As we mourn, let me assure you that we all support the bereaved families and the injured. We will continue to stand by you and share with you your grief and help those of you that are traumatized and depressed, and in the process we all are committed that even with this difficulty Sierra Leone will rise again. May the God and the good Lord have mercy on the souls of our compatriots that have departed. May they be granted eternal rest. Thank you.”
The government warned of a new danger from a large crack that has opened on a mountainside where residents were told to evacuate.
Sierra Leone has asked for international assistance and said it’s doing all it can to stem the outbreak of deadly disease, while human rights organization Amnesty International issued a statement accusing the government of failing to learn from similar incidents.
The mudslide occurred after hours of heavy rains early Monday, while many Freetown residents were still sleeping. Witnesses described a particularly hard-hit area in the Regent district, saying roads became “churning rivers of mud.”
UNICEF called the scale of damage from the mudslides unprecedented and said its teams have been providing safe drinking water and sanitation to the large number of children affected by the disaster.
“Children have been left homeless, vulnerable and terrified. We must do all we can to protect them from disease and exploitation,” said UNICEF Representative Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim.