More than 300 people were killed when a mudslide struck the outskirts of Sierra-Leone’s capital Freetown on Monday, sweeping away homes.
The Red Cross said at least 205 bodies had been taken to the central morgue in Freetown. Police and military personnel were at the scene in the mountain town of Regent searching for people trapped in the debris.
The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are recovered, Red Cross spokesman Abu Bakarr Tarawallie said.
Vice President Victor Foh told Reuters at the scene: “It is likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble.” 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’re trying to cordon the area. Evacuate the people.”
Standing in the rain, people cried and gestured toward a muddy hillside where dozens of houses once stood, a Reuters witness said.
“We were asleep when we heard the noise of one of the walls falling down. By the time we got up water was flowing in and the whole house was flooded,” said 36-year-old Salimatu Bangura.
She escaped, but her brother died, she said.
Mudslides and floods are fairly common during the rainy season in West Africa, where deforestation and poor town planning have put residents at risk.