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Israel to send aid to Sierra Leone after devastating landslide

Netanyahu instructs Foreign Ministry to send medicine, clean water, blankets to flood-stricken Freetown, where hundreds are dead

Mud and water flow in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on August 14, 2017. (Society 4 Climate Change Communication, Sierra Leone via AP)
Mud and water flow in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on August 14, 2017. (Society 4 Climate Change Communication, Sierra Leone via AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday instructed the Foreign Ministry to send aid to Sierra Leone, where hundreds of people were killed in a massive landslide in the capital.

At least 312 people were killed and more than 2,000 left homeless when heavy flooding hit Freetown, leaving excavators to pull bodies from rubble and overwhelming the city’s morgues.

“The prime minister has ordered the Foreign Ministry to extend aid to Sierra Leone in any way and as soon as possible,” his office said.

As there is no embassy in Sierra Leone, Netanyahu said Israel will send medicines, clean water, blankets and other needed items via the embassy in Senegal.

Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma visited Israel in January, and at that time Netanyahu discussed with him the possibility of sending a delegation to help the country’s development.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, according to UN indicators.

Sierra Leone’s military, police and Red Cross volunteers were deployed in an all-out effort to locate and rescue citizens trapped in their homes or under rubble.

The Sierra Leone meteorological department did not issue any warning ahead of the torrential rains to hasten evacuation from the disaster zones, AFP’s correspondent based in Freetown said.

Residents walk through floodwaters past a damaged building in an area of Freetown on August 14, 2017, after landslides struck the capital of the west African state of Sierra Leone. (AFP PHOTO / SAIDU BAH)
Residents walk through floodwaters past a damaged building in an area of Freetown on August 14, 2017, after landslides struck the capital of the west African state of Sierra Leone. (AFP PHOTO / SAIDU BAH)

Deputy Information Minister Cornelius Deveaux confirmed Koroma had called a national emergency, and said his own boss, Information Minister Mohamed Bangura, was in the hospital after being injured in the flooding.

The scale of the human cost of the floods was only becoming clear on Monday afternoon, as images of battered corpses piled on top of each other circulated and residents spoke of their struggles to cope with the destruction and find their loved ones.

Meanwhile disaster management official Vandy Rogers said that “over 2,000 people are homeless,” hinting at the huge humanitarian effort that will be required to deal with the fallout of the flooding.

Freetown, an overcrowded coastal city of 1.2 million, is hit each year by flooding during several months of rain that destroys makeshift settlements and raises the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera.

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