Britain is working with Sierra Leone to coordinate rescue efforts for victims of “devastating” mudslides and torrential flooding that have killed more than 300 people in and around the capital Freetown.
International Development Secretary Priti Patel said the UK also stands ready to provide further assistance, with many victims trapped in homes buried under tons of mud.
On Monday, the West African nation’s national broadcaster said the death toll had risen above 300, but this does not include those buried alive in their homes and more bodies are expected to be found as floodwaters recede.
The Red Cross estimates 3,000 people have been left homeless by the disaster, with the figure expected to rise, while communications and electricity have also been affected.
Ms Patel said:
I am deeply saddened by the devastating landslides and flooding in Freetown, Sierra Leone which have claimed innocent lives.
My thoughts are with all those affected at this tragic time.
From stopping the Ebola outbreak in its tracks to helping the country rebuild after this deadly disease, the UK continues to stand by the people of Sierra Leone.
We have pre-positioned vital aid supplies and helped prepare the country’s response to disasters.
We are already working with the government of Sierra Leone to coordinate the rescue efforts and are ready to provide further assistance to those in need.
Notes to editors
- The UK was amongst the first to respond to this emergency, with British military personnel able to assist at the scene within just hours of the landslip to advise on the emergency response.
- A further two world-leading humanitarian experts are being deployed from the UK to provide specialist advice and expertise to help with response efforts and ensure our work has the greatest impact.
- The UK is at the heart of crisis co-ordination and we are responding to urgent and emerging needs, including healthcare, water and sanitation.
- Public Health England is helping the Government to develop a cholera response plan for the next three months to monitor and treat any outbreaks caused by the flooding.
- We have offered the Government of Sierra Leone vital humanitarian supplies, including generators and tents, to help those affected and stop the potential spread of disease.
- This tragedy comes shortly after the Ebola crisis which Sierra Leone has worked so hard to recover from. The UK was at the forefront in tackling that deadly disease and we remain shoulder to shoulder with Sierra Leone today.
- By pre-positioning critical supplies such as food and medicine, as well as providing training on emergency operations, we have enabled the Government of Sierra Leone to respond quickly.
- The Ministry of Health and Sanitation has also activated the emergency 117 number, originally supported by the UK and used to report suspicious deaths during the Ebola epidemic, to ensure all those that need community support can access it.
- The UK’s leadership in responding to this disaster goes beyond the support provided by the British Government – once again our NGOs and businesses were also quick to step forward to offer vital help.
- This includes the START network of NGOs, which the UK provides funding to, who are currently assessing the immediate and longer-term needs on the ground.
- It also includes Dawnus, a British construction company, who have also offered the use of specialist equipment to help with recovery.
- This is an ongoing and evolving situation of which details are still emerging – we remain open to doing more as a clearer picture is established.