FREETOWN (Sierra Leone) • At least 312 people were killed and more than 2,000 left homeless when a mudslide and heavy flooding hit Sierra Leone's capital Freetown yesterday, leaving hospitals struggling to cope.
"It is likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble," Vice-President Victor Foh said at the scene in the mountain town of Regent.
He said a number of illegal buildings had been erected in the area.
"The disaster is so serious that I myself feel broken," he said. "We are trying to cordon the area. Evacuate the people."
A journalist at the scene saw bodies being carried away and houses submerged in two areas of the city, where roads were turned into churning rivers of mud and corpses washed up on the streets.
Disaster management official Candy Rogers said "over 2,000 people are homeless", hinting at the huge humanitarian effort that will be required to deal with the fallout of the flooding in one of Africa's poorest nations.
Images of the disaster showed a ferocious churning of dark orange mud coursing down a street, while videos showed people waist- and chest-deep in water trying to traverse the road. Other photos showed battered corpses piled on top of one another, as residents struggled to cope with the destruction.
Local media reports also said a section of a hill in the Regent area of the city had partially collapsed.
Freetown, an overcrowded coastal city of 1.2 million, is hit annually by flooding during several months of rain that destroy makeshift settlements and raise the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera. Flooding in the capital in 2015 killed 10 people and left thousands homeless.
Sierra Leone was one of the west African nations hit by an outbreak of the Ebola virus in 2014 that left more than 4,000 people dead in the country, and it has struggled to revive its economy since the crisis.
About 60 per cent of people in Sierra Leone live below the poverty line, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS