Relatives of victims line up at the entrance of Connaught Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Wednesday. Picture: REUTERS
Relatives of victims line up at the entrance of Connaught Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Wednesday. Picture: REUTERS

Freetown — Concern shifted on Wednesday to the estimated 600 people still missing and thousands made homeless in Sierra Leone by deadly floods in the capital, as it emerged that at least a third of those killed were children.

UN divisions said on Tuesday they were evaluating humanitarian needs in Sierra Leone, while the first Israeli aid packages were sent and the UK pledged support.

Officials at Freetown’s central morgue said 105 of the more than 300 officially dead were children, and burials began on Tuesday for some of the bodies too mutilated to identify.

An independent but unofficial morgue estimate put the toll at 400 dead.

President Ernest Bai Koroma fought back tears on Tuesday as he visited the devastated hilltop community of Regent, saying the scale of the challenge ahead was "overwhelming us".

"Entire communities have been wiped out," Koroma said. "We need urgent support now." The government of Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, has promised relief to what the Red Cross says is more than 3,000 people left homeless. It has opened an emergency response centre in Regent and registration centres to count those left on the streets.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York the UN country team was "supporting national authorities in rescue operations, helping evacuate residents, providing medical assistance to the injured, registering survivors, and providing food rations, water and dignity kits to those affected".

Speaking to AFP at the mortuary at the Connaught Hospital, technician Mohamed Sinneh Kamara said his team lacked equipment to process and identify the bodies piling up.

"We have logistical constraints including a lack of gloves, PPE [personal protective equipment] and rain boots," he said as families gathered to identify relatives’ bodies.

AFP

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