The magnitude of damage caused by a mudslide in Sierra Leone was due to the government’s failure to implement housing and environmental policies, Amnesty International said Thursday.
“While flooding is a natural disaster, the scale of the human tragedy in Freetown is, sadly, very much man-made,” the human rights group’s deputy director of global issues, Makmid Kamara, said in a statement.
Major floods in the rainy season between May and November are an annual occurrence in the West African nation, said Kamara.
“The authorities should have learned lessons from previous similar incidents and put in place systems to prevent, or at least minimise, the consequences of these disasters,” he added.
According to the amnesty report, millions of people in the nation of 7.4 million people live in “dangerously vulnerable” homes due to a lack of regulation and insufficient consideration for minimum standards and environmental laws.
The exact toll of a massive mudslide and floods that occurred on Monday after three days of torrential rain remained unclear on Thursday, with the Health Ministry speaking of a total of 500 deaths.
With hundreds of people still missing, aid agencies expect the death toll to rise substantially.
A mass burial was underway on Thursday, as morgues were overflowing with bodies.
Most deaths occurred in the Regent neighbourhood, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Freetown.
According to the Red Cross, it lies beneath Sugarloaf Mountain, where a mudslide destroyed at least 1,000 homes, making an estimated 3,000 people homeless.