Sierra Leone mudslide: A disaster that has shocked a nation grown weary of tragedy

This is a disaster that has shocked a nation grown weary of tragedy and hardship.

It’s little more than a year since Sierra Leone was declared officially free of ebola.

Now they are bringing out the bodies again. As we watched today, each was accompanied by a wild lament.

By the time all the dead are counted, it will have grown to a great chorus of grief.

At the mortuary in Freetown, hundreds of relatives of the missing queue round the block.

In groups of ten or fifteen they are allowed through the gates; given a face mask and invited into the morgue.

Their appalling task is to try to identify the dead.

Isamail Tumeralai is searching for eighteen members of his family, including his sister and her children.

‘’They all slept under the same roof. Only one person survived. The rest are all gone. All dead,’’ he tells me.

Grief consumes Alpha Kargbo. His wife and their two babies – born just a few days ago – are lost.

He tells me he was sleeping upstairs with his family on the ground floor when the mudslide hit. There was no chance to save them before they were engulfed.

Survivors are fearful of disease now Credit: ITV News

At the rescue site it is only bodies they recover. A dozen more this morning, a sergeant from the Sierra Leone army tells me. There seems no hope of finding any one alive beneath the smothering mud.

And there are new fears. Ben Munson of Street Child, one of several aid agencies responding to the disaster, tells me shelter and fresh water is in short supply.

‘’There are bodies buried in the mud. There is a real danger of cholera and typhoid if we don’t act quickly.’’

Sierra Leone is beginning seven days of national mourning.

The government has promised each victim a dignified funeral.

But many are still buried under the weight of the fallen Sugarloaf mountain, and might never be found.