At least five people have been reported dead and several others injured or missing as torrential rain hits the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown.
A heavy downpour that started early morning on Sunday, August 28, left parts of the city flooded, as residents are forced to abandon their homes in search of safer spots. Several buildings have been reportedly collapsed.
A mudslide occurred in Looking Town, a suburb in Kissy in the east end of the city, where five people reportedly died when two houses were buried under mud, the Office of National Security (ONS) confirmed in a statement.
The victims included a family of three and a child, according to the agency and neighbors.
Images shared on social media show volunteer youths digging to remove bodies and rescue people still alive from under destroyed homes.
“Residents in the community managed to remove five people from the rubble. Four of them had already died and the remaining one, a child, aged 7, was rescued alive and taken to the Rokupa Government Hospital,” the ONS says.
It lists about half a dozen other communities that were reportedly affected by flooding: they include Kanikay, Culvert, Kaningo and Tengbeh Town, where houses and major roads were reportedly flooded, leaving residents trapped in the “raging waters” and their properties destroyed.
According to the agency, in Brook Street, a perimeter fence collapsed on a building which left some people trapped inside. And in Cassava Farm on Leicester Road, a building collapsed due to the rain. However, no casualties were reported there.
Sunday’s incident followed days of downpours across the city.
The area where the landslide occurred is situated below a hilltop.
Authorities have warned people living is such disaster-prone areas to take precautionary measures.
The Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency (SLMET) warned of further rains. It says that owing to the rainfall recorded for “few days”, the water level had increased in most areas and that it would result to flooding in most parts of the city.
“We hereby urge everyone to take the necessary precautions as advised by SLMET and NDMA [National Disaster Management Agency],” the SLMet said in a statement.
The communications department of the NDMA did not provide any detail when contacted by ManoReporters.
Meanwhile, there are concerns about the slow pace of official response to the disaster. By midday, only four of the bodies from the landslide had been removed from underneath the remains of the destroyed homes.
Volunteer rescue workers were still struggling to remove the fifth body.
And there was no ambulance available to take the bodies and injured to hospital. A fire service vehicle was forced to leave behind a body after taking three, for lack of space.
In another scene in a different location, people were seen on top of their roofs as their homes are flooded down below, waiting for help.
A major traffic was occasioned after uprooted trees blocked a major highway between Up Gun and Ferry Junction in eastern Freetown.
Sunday’s incident also comes exactly five years after the deadly August 14th mudslide that claimed over 1000 lives in the west end of the city. That incident at Regent was described as one of the worst natural disasters in Sierra Leone’s history.