More than 400 bodies have been pulled from the debris of Sierra Leone’s mudslides as the search continues for hundreds of others still missing.
The U.N. humanitarian agency put the death toll at 409 after the flooding and mudslides in the West African nation’s capital, Freetown, on Monday.
“The death toll is climbing by the day,” Elhadj As Sy, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told reporters in Geneva, adding that the disaster is “way beyond the capacity of the government alone.”
Burials began on Thursday for 300 people killed in the mudslide. Another scores of others have already been buried.
"Today is another sad moment for our compatriots who have suffered a tragic death," President Ernest Bai Koroma told mourners at the ceremony, referring to the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic, which killed 4,000 people in the country. Many of victims of the virus were buried in the same cemetery.
Meanwhile, people continue to search through tons of mud and the debris of damaged buildings. The Red Cross said in total, approximately 600 people are missing. They still hope to find survivors “but the chances are getting smaller every day.”
"The topography of this area is not easily accessible, but as the military we continue to make headway," said Colonel Abu Bakarr Bah, who is leading a search team.
The government has warned residents to evacuate a mountainside where a large crack has opened. Rainfall was forecasted for the coming days, slowing recovery efforts and bringing the threat of further mudslides.
“The rains are still pending and there is a possibility that we will have another incident,” Zuliatu Cooper, the deputy minister of health and sanitation, told The Associated Press.