Published: August 18,2017
Authorities in Sierra Leone now say up to 450 bodies have been recovered following this week's torrential mudslides.
Aid officials have estimated that at least 600 others are still missing four days after heavy storms caused the disaster.
Dr. Simeon Owiss Koroma, the government's chief consultant forensic pathologist, said Friday afternoon that up to 450 bodies now have been recovered.
Those that can be identified are being returned to loved ones for burial, but others too badly decomposed have been taken to a cemetery where Ebola victims were laid to rest in 2014 and 2015.
Koroma said forensic experts from Spain were to arrive late Friday to aid with recovery efforts in Freetown.
"The death toll is climbing by the day," Elhadj As Sy, secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told reporters in Geneva, adding that the disaster is "way beyond the capacity of the government alone."
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Large-scale burials have begun as an estimated 600 people remain missing. People continue to search through tons of mud and debris amid the remains of mangled buildings.
The government has warned residents to evacuate a mountainside where a large crack has opened. Rainfall remains in the forecast for the coming days, slowing recovery efforts and bringing the threat of further mudslides.
Thousands of people have lost their homes. Some critics accuse the government of not learning from past disasters in a city where many poor areas are near sea level and lack good drainage. The capital is also plagued by unregulated construction on its hillsides.
Rescue workers search for survivors following a mudslide in Regent, east of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017.
(AP Photo/Manika Kamara)
(AP Photo/Manika Kamara)
The government has hired 600 gravediggers for burials in a cemetery that holds victims of the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak that killed thousands in the country.
President Ernest Bai Koroma joined mourners for burials on Thursday. Many people have been unable to find loved ones as many victims were too mangled and decomposed to be identified, but the government has vowed to hold respectful burials for all.
"The water took away my mother and sister and they have buried them today. That's why we are here, to mourn and go back home," said one survivor, Zainab Kargbo.
The main focus is getting people away from areas still under threat, Zuliatu Cooper, the deputy minister of health and sanitation, told The Associated Press.
"The rains are still pending and there is a possibility that we will have another incident," he said.
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