Sierra Leone: Man loses 12 family members in mudslide

Volunteers search for survivors following mudslides in Sierra Leone. Credit: AP
  • Video report by ITV News Africa Correspondent John Ray

Twelve members of the same family are among hundreds missing in the wake of a huge mudslide which struck Sierra Leone.

More than 300 people have been confirmed dead and some 600 unaccounted for after the slide in the country's capital Freetown.

Heavy rains caused the side of a mountain overlooking the city to collapse, obliterating homes and buildings below as people slept on Monday.

One man, called Felix, told ITV News he believed more than 12 members of his family were missing - including his parents and siblings.

A huge rescue operation is now under way, while a state of national emergency has been declared in the west African country.

Thousands of homes are believed to have been destroyed by the mudslide. So far 297 bodies had been recovered.

Inhabitants of Sierra Leone worked alongside emergency services to dig through rubble in search of survivors, according to a government spokesperson.

Cornelius Deveaux said that the military had also been deployed.

He said that mortuaries were "overwhelmed with corpses of men, women and children".

Many bodies were in a horrible state, missing arms, heads or legs, Deveaux said, adding that proper burials will be vital in keeping disease at bay.

"Contingency plans are being put in place to mitigate the outbreak of disease like cholera," he added.

More rain is expected which could hamper rescue efforts further. Credit: PA

An estimated 9,000 people have been affected by the tragedy, according to the Red Cross.

Abdul Nasir said: "A river of mud came out of nowhere and swallowed entire communities, just wiped them away.

"We are racing against time, more flooding and the risk of disease to help these affected communities survive and cope with their loss."

The mudslide is the worst natural disaster ever to strike Sierra Leone, according to Society 4 Climate Change Communication.

Coroners said bodies are filling the morgues' floors in the city.

The mudslide was brought on by heavy rain that swept through Sierra Leone's capital Freetown. Credit: ITV News

Poor drainage systems in the impoverished areas of the capital - which are also close to sea level - are known to exacerbate flooding during the country's rainy season.

Thousands of makeshift settlements in and around the capital have been severely affected.

"The government has been warning people not to construct houses in these areas. When they do this, there are risks," Nasir said.

"People don't follow the standard construction rules, and that is another reason that many of these houses have been affected."

Deforestation for firewood and charcoal is one of the leading factors of worsening flooding and mudslides.

The mudslide occurred near the west African nation's capital Freetown. Credit: ITV News