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International

Sierra Leone mudslide claims 350 lives

12:00, Tuesday, 15 August, 2017
Sierra Leone mudslide claims 350 lives

Massive mudslides on the outskirts of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, have claimed at least 350 lives, including 100 children.

Local media have reported more than 350 unidentified bodies are now in the morgue of the city's largest hospital.

The death toll is expected to rise after more than 1000 homes were buried in mud after a hillside collapsed in heavy rain on Monday with residents believed to be trapped inside, the Sierra Leone Telegraph reports.

A Health Ministry source spoke of up to 500 deaths, while vice president Victor Foh told journalists, "It is likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble."

Red Cross spokesman Abu Bakar Tarrawellie had earlier said the initial death toll stood at 205, but it was likely the number would climb, with rescue efforts ongoing and 600 people missing.

"The landslide has stopped. But the area is very disaster prone. It is still a considerable threat to anyone. So we encourage anyone to leave [the area]," Tarrawellie said. "The recovery is a huge challenge."

Volunteers could be seen in the neighbourhood of Lumley helping to extricate mangled bodies with their bare hands. The sound of sirens could be heard everywhere, though flooded roads hindered rescue work.

Photos published in the Sierra Leone Telegraph show people wading through streets of thick muddy water reaching up to their hips.

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