Mass burial begins for Sierra Leone mudslide victims

One of the disaster sites (PHOTO: GettyImages)
One of the disaster sites (PHOTO: GettyImages)

Sierra Leonean health officials have confirmed the burial of about 300 corpses retrieved from the site of the deadly mudslide and flooding which hit the outskirts of Freetown 3 days ago in one of Africa’s worst flood disasters.

The action, according to officials, is to avoid the outbreak of disease.

More than 400 people have been confirmed dead – at least a quarter of them children – from the devastating mudslides that hit before dawn on Monday, triggered by days of heavy rain.

The burials involved people who had already been identified or whose bodies were badly decomposed, Freetown’s chief pathologist Dr Simeon Owizz Koroma said.

Hundreds of Freetown residents queued on Wednesday to identify relatives crushed by mud on Monday in a valley on the outskirts of Freetown.

Aid workers said there was a high risk of disease outbreaks such as cholera, as corpses are lying out in the open in the heat.

The government summoned families to the morgue and said all unidentified corpses would be buried on Thursday and Friday.

They have been taken to a mass grave in Waterloo known as the Ebola cemetery after the 2014 disease outbreak, which killed nearly 4,000 people in the country.

Volunteers said there were more bodies inside the mortuary that urgently needed to be buried because they had decomposed.

Homes in the hilltop community of Regent were engulfed after part of Sugar Loaf mountain collapsed following heavy rain early on Monday. Many victims were asleep in bed when disaster struck.

The dead included more than 100 children.

In a statement on Wednesday, President Ernest Bai Koroma’s office asked relatives to come to the city’s overwhelmed mortuary. All unidentified corpses will be given a “dignified burial” in the coming days, it said.

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