Violent clashes between authorities and residents of an Ebola-stricken neighborhood erupted in the Liberian city of Monrovia on Wednesday as the death toll from the disease continued to climb.
Men threw stones at soldiers dispatched to control crowds in West Point — a Monrovia slum that’s been placed under quarantine — and residents tried to charge through barricades in the neighborhood, according to reports. “This is messed up,” Lt. Col. Abraham Kromah, head of national police operations, told the New York Times. “They injured one of my police officers. That’s not cool. It’s a group of criminals that did this. Look at this child. God in heaven help us.” Kromah spoke while looking at a 15-year-old who appeared to have been wounded in the clashes; the teenager begged for help as he lay near the barricade, the Times reported.
West Point residents woke Wednesday to find riot police blocking roads in and out of their community, according to the Associated Press. People trying to leave the neighborhood by boat encountered an offshore coast guard patrol. Protests and violence soon broke out, according to the AP:
When the local government representative, who had not slept at home, returned to get her family out, hundreds of people surrounded her house until police and soldiers packed her and her family into a car and hustled them away. Security forces fired into the air to disperse the crowd, and residents threw stones or whatever was at hand at them. At least one person was injured.
Kromah, the national police official, said that forces eventually managed to restore order in the area, according to the AP.
Here are some images from the scene:
Those living in the West Point slum told Reuters that they weren’t given advance notice about the blockade, which left some without supplies. “We just saw it (the blockade) this morning. We came out and we couldn’t go anywhere. I haven’t heard from anybody in authority what happened,” Alpha Barry, 45, who works as a money changer, told Reuters. “I don’t have any food and we’re scared,” added Barry, who said he was from Guinea and has four children under 13.
Monrovia is the capital of Liberia, a West African country has been ravaged by the deadly Ebola virus. The disease is spreading faster in Liberia than anywhere else, according to the World Health Organization, which reported Wednesday that of the 1,350 confirmed, probable and suspected Ebola deaths in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone as of Monday, 576 were from Liberia. “It’s out of control; the numbers keep rising,” Lindis Hurum, a coordinator for Doctors without Borders in Monrovia, told the Times this week. “It’s very difficult and complex in Monrovia. We’ve never had a large outbreak like this in an urban setting.”
Ebola hysteria is spreading across the country, particularly in Monrovia. A few days ago, crowds gathered outside an Ebola isolation unit, where patients were receiving screening and treatment for the disease. The angry mob pushed through the gates of the school-turned-Ebola center and several patients ran away. As The Post’s Terrence McCoy wrote of the mob: “Its members were angry their community had been used to isolate Ebola patients. They were upset they couldn’t see the patients inside. They were suspicious of the whole operation.” “No Ebola in West Point!” the crowd chanted, according to Getty Images photographer John Moore. “No Ebola in West Point!” The unit was looted, which led many to fear that the infection would spread.
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ordered the West Point neighborhood to be sealed off and imposed a nationwide curfew, according to the AP. “We have been unable to control the spread,” Sirleaf said in an address to the nation Tuesday night, the AP reported. The AP added that Sirleaf “blamed the rising case toll on denial, defiance of authorities and cultural burial practices, in which bodies are handled.”