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Sunday, February 5, 2023

S/Leone weeps as landslide victims rest in peace

HomeAYV NewsS/Leone weeps as landslide victims rest in peace

S/Leone weeps as landslide victims rest in peace

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The cries outside the crowded mortuary were heart-rending as Sorrie Sesay and his teenage sister Marian rolled on the ground still wet from the heavy rains of the last few days, sobbing inconsolably.

They had just confirmed that their parents and three siblings were among the dead being kept at the mortuary where a strong stench from rotten corpses attacked the nostrils of the living even though they had pads covering their noses. 

“Oh papa, oh mama” they wailed intermittently while quiet crowds of grief-stricken people milled around, shaking their heads ruefully, still struggling to comprehend the full magnitude of the disaster that had visited Sierra Leone barely a year and half after the Ebola epidemic ended, claiming thousands of lives since its outbreak in 2014.   

Over 400 people are now known to have died in the mudslide.

 The sense of desolation hanging over Freetown and its hilly satellite towns including Regent, where the disaster happened came as burial ceremonies continued for victims in the quiet town of Waterloo, lying 30km outside the capital on Thursday.

By the evening amidst more tears over 200 bodies, wrapped in body bags were laid to rest in a mass burial at the town cemetery established in 2015 for victims of the Ebola epidemic.

Some landslide victims had been buried a day earlier.

Work on the graves was still ongoing by volunteer workers as at 4pm Thursday.

With now no hope for survivors more than 92 hours after the tragedy struck, rescue workers including those of the Red Cross say the number of dead will inevitably climb as they continue to dig for bodies still trapped under the slippery, red mud, pictures of which had traveled around the world.

Health workers also fear the spread of water-borne diseases.

Meanwhile, recovery work is still ongoing at the village of Mortema, a small settlement located on the foot of Mount Sugar Loaf, an unofficial extension of the community in Regent, the epicentre of the landslide where over 600 people are still unaccounted for, many believed to be still trapped in homes buried under the mud.

However lack of required heavy-duty equipment was hampering efforts to dig out more bodies.

An official with the Ministry of Health supervising the grave-digging to recoup more bodies told APA that they were tasked with digging over 300 graves ahead of more burial ceremonies which will continue for the next few days.

President Ernest Bai Koroma happened to grace the burial in Waterloo that was characterised by special inte-rreligious prayers for the victims.

 Sierra Leoneans are familiar with griefs of a national proportion, not least the carnage brought by an 11-year civil war and an Ebola epidemic which lasted over a year.

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