Volunteers in Race Against Time to Find Survivors in Sierra Leone Mudslides

Red Cross staff and volunteers are frantically working alongside emergency officials to rescue survivors and assist desperate communities that have lost their homes and loved ones in yesterday’s mudslides in and around the capital Freetown.

The most severe mudslides, triggered by three days of heavy rains, occurred yesterday in the coastal suburb of Racecourse on the city’s eastern edge, as well as in Regent and Lumley where thousands of makeshift settlements are home to the city’s poorest communities.

I have never seen anything like it,” said Abdul Nasim, Programme Coordinator of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “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.”

Response teams, including dozens of Sierra Leone Red Cross (SLRCS) volunteers have been recovering people from the mud and debris, helping evacuate residents, transferring bodies to morgues and providing medical care to the injured.

Our staff and volunteers, many of whom come from the affected areas, are shocked by the sheer destruction of this disaster,” said Constant Kargbo, SLRCS Secretary General. “The needs are massive. Damaged roads, power outages and broken communication lines present huge challenges for our volunteers to reach and support the affected communities.”

At least 260 people have been recovered. However, with 600 still missing, this figure is likely to increase. An estimated 3,000 or more people are believed to have lost their homes and are in immediate need of emergency assistance and shelter.

The IFRC has today released more than 270,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to bolster initial search and rescue and recovery efforts. These emergency funds will enable volunteers to assist more than 9,000 people with search and rescue, first aid, health care, water, sanitation and hygiene promotion and emergency food.

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