Survivors face uncertain future in wake of Sierra Leone’s mudslide

A little over two weeks after a mudslide and flooding killed at least 500 people in Regent, a town near Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, one survivor takes us through the moment when the disaster happened. The United Nations estimates that 3,000 people have lost their homes.

REGENT, SIERRA LEONE (REUTERS) – When a mudslide hit Regent Town in Sierra Leone, on August 14, the side of Mount Sugar Loaf collapsed leaving a river of mud, rocks and rubble sweeping homes as families were asleep.

About 500 people died in what has been described as one of Africa’s worst flooding-related disasters in years following heavy rain.

Hassan Turay a youth leader in his neighbourhood says he lost many friends and some family members in the mudslide.

“Around 2am in the morning, the rain was heavy. It felt like stones falling on the rooftop. That night I couldn’t sleep because I was wondering about the kind of rain that was falling and how it would affect this community. I was coming out to check around the house and checking on my neighbors using a torch. I pointed the torch to my brother’s house and his house was flooded and he lost two children. I called him but he was not answering because the rain was heavy. My wife is currently at the Don Bosco hospital with injuries. She’s with my brother’s wife, who was also injured, she had a cut in her leg and they gave her fifteen stitches,” said Turay.

Sierra Red Cross Society has estimated that at least 3,000 people are now homeless and in need of shelter, medical assistance and food.

Charities have set up points to distribute meals to those affected and provide aid.

Turay like many of the survivors says he is struggling to come to terms with his loss and does not know how he will rebuild his life.

“The zinc house you see over there is mine. My brother who lost two of his children were staying near my place. Their house was flooded but the two children died because they were still in bed. Most of the people who died here were still in bed during the landslide, at that time it was raining. One of the people we lost was Captain Jimmy, he was my neighbor he died with his family. His wife was a police officer, they all died,” he added.

Officials say over 800 people are still said to be missing. Meanwhile, the search for remaining bodies intensified at the mudslide site as aid agencies warned that corpses trapped in the mud are likely to contaminate water sources and cause outbreaks of disease.

The threat of deadly landslides is growing in west and central Africa as rainfall, deforestation and urban populations rise, experts say.