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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

'More than 200' dead in Sierra Leone mudslides

Bodies were being carried away and houses submerged in mud in two areas of the city, where roads were turned into churning rivers of mud and corpses washed up on the streets.

Relatives dug through the mud in search of their loved ones and a morgue overflowed with bodies in Sierra Leone's capital on Monday after heavy rains and flooding early in the day killed at least 200 people.

A morgue official in says more than 200 bodies have been brought in, overwhelming the facility in Freetown.

Bodies were spread out on the floor of a morgue, Sinneh Kamara, a coroner technician at the Connaught hospital mortuary, told the National Broadcasting Corp.

"The capacity at the mortuary is too small for the corpses," he said, urging the health department to deploy more ambulances as his mortuary only has four.

"It is likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble," vice president Victor Foh said at the scene of the mudslide in the mountain town of Regent, adding that a number of illegal buildings had been erected in the area.

"The disaster is so serious that I myself feel broken," he added. "We're trying to cordon [off] the area and evacuate the people."

Sierra Leone's national television broadcaster interrupted its regular programming to show scenes of people trying to retrieve their loved ones' bodies. Others were seen carting relatives' remains in rice sacks to the morgue.

Military personnel have been deployed to help in the rescue operation currently ongoing, officials said.

Bodies were being carried away and houses submerged in mud in two areas of the city, where roads were turned into churning rivers of mud and corpses washed up on the streets.

Images shared by local media showed people waist-deep trying to traverse streets of flowing water, while a section of a hill in the Regent area was reported to have collapsed.

Many of the impoverished areas of Sierra Leone's capital are close to sea level and have poor drainage systems, exacerbating flooding during the West African country's rainy season.

People cried as they looked at the damage under steady rain, gesturing toward a muddy hillside where dozens of houses used to stand, a witness said.

Mudslides and floods are fairly common during the rainy season in West Africa, where deforestation and poor town planning put residents at risk.

Flooding in the capital in 2015 killed 10 people and left thousands homeless.