A night of torrential rain on August 14 caused flooding and a massive landslide in and around the capital of Sierra Leone. Our Observer lives at the hardest-hit site, where hundreds of people are feared dead.
Freetown Mayor Sam Gibson told reporters Tuesday that 270 bodies had been recovered so far. But as volunteers and excavators struggled to dig survivors out of the mud, the Red Cross warned another 600 people were missing.
“They’re still buried”
Victoria Gerber, a 21-year-old law student, lives in the town of Regent on the outskirts of Freetown. With the population of the capital swelling to more than 1 million people, many residents have chosen to build houses in Regent, on the slopes of Mount Sugar Loaf, ignoring government warnings that they were unsafe.
It was raining and flooding Sunday night, and the landslide happened at 6am in the morning. We heard tremors and the earth was shaking. At 6 o’clock everyone here heard a crack and half of the mountain just came down.
All of the houses and all of the people that were there were buried. And they’re still buried – we don’t have enough trucks, we don’t have enough ways to get them out. There aren’t enough volunteers. They haven’t been able to recover many bodies from this particular section. They’ve only been able to recover bodies from flat areas that were damaged by water and mud from the landslide. At the site where all the houses were, there have been only five bodies recovered. People can’t do much right now because the soil is still giving way. Pieces of stone are still falling away from the mountain.
They’ve been at it all night.The Mount SugarLoaf landslide has killed 1000’s .They can’t even find bodies.The Debris is everywhere 😞 pic.twitter.com/V0TKgX9jsN
— FufuFiend🇸🇱💪🏾 (@RhageToya) August 15, 2017
The lower slopes of Sugar Loaf Mountain after the August 14 landslide. Video filmed by Latoya Gerber, Victoria Gerber’s cousin, and posted on her Twitter feed.
It happened very early in the morning, so a lot of people hadn’t gone to work yet. A lot of families were killed – whole families. People who live in other sections of Freetown have been trying to get through to people in Regent on the phone. If they can’t reach them, they assume they are dead.
My family is all safe. I couldn’t get to my father and my mother because the wall in front of our building was washed away by the water. There was a huge stream of water separating me from my parents. They had to tie a rope around me then drag me across the water so I could reach them. The water was almost up to my shoulders.