After a night of torrential rain, entire hillsides have collapsed into fast-moving mud in and around Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, on Monday. Speaking to the news agency Agence France-Presse, a Red Cross spokesman said 312 people had been confirmed dead in the floods and mudslides. Given the nature of the disaster, it is likely that the toll will soar as authorities account for the missing, who may be buried under mud or may have been carried far away by floodwaters.
Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh said it was “likely that hundreds are lying dead.”
The biggest mudslide appeared to have been in the suburb of Regent. A picture below shows a hillside once covered in homes that are now themselves covered in mud.
Freetown is a densely packed city built onto a hilly peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. Heavy rains and flooding are common at this time of year, but Monday's would be the deadliest in recent memory.
A BBC reporter in the city said he had spoken with residents who had lost their entire families in the mudslides.
“Hundreds of people are still coming to the area to look for their loved ones. Some of them told me they have not been able to find them,” Umaru Fofana, the reporter, said. “In fact, there is no sign of the dozens of homes that were built at the foot of Mount Sugar Loaf.”
Military personnel have been deployed to help in rescue missions, but mortuaries are unable to cope with the number of bodies arriving, according to the Associated Press.