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‘This Is Too Much for Us’: Sierra Leone Deluged by Mud and Grief

“Let me assure you that my government is fully engaged on this situation,” the president said, advising people to remain calm and avoid areas still vulnerable to slides.

Despite the president’s pledge, it was clear that rescue and cleanup efforts would take time: Recovery teams lacked the appropriate equipment to dig through the extensive mud and debris. Phone and power failures spread across the city, and some roads were impassable. Homes that were still standing were caked in mud and coated with debris.

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Homes in poor neighborhoods of Freetown were caked in tons of mud. Credit Jane Hahn for The New York Times

“We are also fearful of outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid,” Abu Bakarr Tarawallie, a spokesman for the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, told Reuters. “We can only hope that this does not happen.”

The Freetown morgue had reached capacity on Monday, but bodies kept arriving on Tuesday. They were stacked outside, where residents gathered to try to identify missing family members.

The stench was overwhelming. Mohamed Koroma, a university student in Freetown who visited the morgue on Tuesday, said people had to cover their faces with masks.

“It’s like we are back again with Ebola,” he said, speaking of the 2014 outbreak that killed thousands in Sierra Leone and neighboring nations. “This is too much for us as a country.”

Several countries have pledged support, including Nigeria, Israel and Liberia. Local and international aid organizations were helping to find survivors and retrieve the dead.

Source: NYT > World

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