Week-long mourning for mudslide victims

FREETOWN. — Starting yesterday, Sierra Leone will have a week-long national mourning for hundreds of people killed in a mudslide earlier this week as countries in Africa and elsewhere offer assistance to the West African country to cope with the disaster.

The massive mudslide, which occurred on Monday morning following heavy rains, swept across a large area on the outskirts of Freetown, killing at least 297 people, over a third of them children, according to the latest update of casualties by the country’s Emergency Response Centre.

Some 200 people are still missing from the mudslide, the agency said. Information from the Red Cross showed that at least 3,000 people became homeless as a result of the disaster and the number could rise further.

Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma announced the decision to hold a seven-day national mourning for the mudslide victims yesterday.

According to a statement from the Presidential Office, the national mourning will start on August 16 and last until August 22, and during the period all flags would be flown at half mast. The general public was also requested to observe a minute of silence at midday yesterday, the statement said.

“The President has further decided to invoke MAC-C (Military Aid to Civil Community) and to raise the national security threat level to level 3 in direct response to the unfolding emergency situation,” the statement said.

The government also requests bereaved families to continue to identify their fallen loved ones at the Connaught Hospital Mortuary between 9 am and 5 pm yesterday at the mortuary where they will be advised on the burial procedure, according to the statement.

It said that unidentified bodies will be given dignified burial at Waterloo between today and tomorrow. It added that the government will continue to provide the public with regular updates on the situation.

The total number of deaths reported at the Connaught Hospital is 297, including 109 children, 83 women and 105 men, Cornnelius Deveaux, the country’s deputy minister of information and communication, told the press earlier Tuesday.

Some 100 rescuers, including around 30 foreigners as well as local officers and medical workers, were at the site conducting rescue work, backed by five excavators, Wang Bo, a staff member of China Railway Seventh Group who also took part in the rescue effort, told Xinhua yesterday.

A Chinese medical team based in the country also participated in the rescue effort. — Xinhua

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