Officials in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, say more than 200 people are dead after a mudslide and heavy flooding. The catastrophe in the early hours of Monday followed hours of heavy rains. Witnesses described a hillside collapse in the Regent area and said roads became “churning rivers of mud.”
Sinneh Kamara, a technician at the Connaught Hospital mortuary, told state media that a lack of space is forcing workers to leave bodies on the floor.
“The capacity at the mortuary is too small for the corpses,” he said.
Kamara said the death toll will likely rise, as many people were sleeping in their homes when the flooding and mudslide happened.
State television halted regular programming and showed scenes of people carrying loved ones’ remains in rice sacks to morgues, while others were seen digging through the mud in search of missing family members.
Government officials have deployed military personnel to assist with rescue operations.
Vice President Victor Foh, who came to the Regent area, told Reuters that “It is likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble.” He said a number of illegal buildings were constructed in the area.
“The disaster is so serious that I myself feel broken,” he said. “We’re trying to cordon [off] the area [and] evacuate the people.”
Some impoverished areas in Sierra Leone’s capital are located near sea level and have poor drainage systems, which increases flooding during rainy season.