Several hundred people are reported dead with many more missing after a devastating series of mudslides and floods ripped through communities in and around Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown.
The country’s vice president told news organizations that hundreds of people could be lying dead underneath the rubble, and search and rescue efforts are continuing. Thousands are estimated to be homeless after the storm inundated densely populated hillsides.
Direct Relief has been in contact with the Medical Research Centre, a local health organization based in Sierra Leone that has been a long-standing partner. As a result of MRC’s specific requests, more than 10,000 pounds of critical medical aid, including antibiotics, wound care and rehydration supplies, will leave Direct Relief’s warehouse this week, bound for Sierra Leone.
Once the shipment arrives in the country, the Medical Research Centre will distribute the supplies to hospitals and clinics treating those injured in the disaster.
Water purification supplies and oral rehydration salts will also be sent to help communities that have lost access to clean water. Diseases like cholera are a concern after natural disasters like flooding, when people often have limited access to safe drinking water.
Medical professionals on the ground with the Medical Research Centre reported that cholera could become an issue in the area, and have requested cholera treatment items from Direct Relief in anticipation of any patients that may need care.
Direct Relief has a long history of responding to flood-related disasters and the secondary health issues that can arise in their wake.
Other common health risks typically seen after a flooding disaster include an increase in vector-borne diseases, malnutrition, and a lack of access to chronic care medications. Most of these issues come as a result of stagnant water, damaged crops, and a lack of access to food and medical supply chains.
Freetown has received triple the amount of rain usually seen, more than 41 inches since July 1, according to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.
Freetown is a dense coastal city of more than 1 million people, and many affected by the storm were living in unsecured structures that were swept away by the deluge of water. Poor infrastructure and drainage can also exacerbate flooding conditions, and entire communities in the Freetown area have been washed away.
A hillside in the Regent area, which is about 15 miles east of Freetown, collapsed early Monday morning in the wake of heavy rains. News reports stated that properties in the Mt. Sugar Loaf area had been deluged by mud and flood waters as a result of the storms.
Storms and torrential downpours are expected during the August and September months each year as monsoonal weather patterns move across Africa from east to west. The storms produce high amounts of rain in a short amount of time, often prompting severe flash floodings, like what was seen in Freetown on Sunday night and early Monday.
Freetown experienced flooding from similar storms in 2015, and the aftermath left 10 people dead and thousands homeless.
Direct Relief will continue to monitor the floods and support health partners with essential medical aid.