Pittella calls on EU to provide ‘utmost urgent’ help to Sierra Leone

Residents and rescue personnel view damage caused by a mudslide in the suburb of Regent. Freetown, 14 August. [Ernest Henry/EPA]

Gianni Pittella, the president of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, has called for the EU to deliver help to Sierra Leone with the utmost urgency, after floods and landslides in the country’s capital Freetown took a huge toll on human lives.

“This is an ongoing tragedy that could get even worse if we don’t help the survivors. Many have been left with no shelter and with nowhere to go. The EU must react with the utmost urgency!”, Pittella stated.

In a short statement, the EU external service said the Union was ready to help.

Sierra Leone began a week of mourning on Wednesday (16 August) as it emerged that 105 children were among more than 300 people who were found dead following mudslides and torrential flooding, in one of the country’s worst natural disasters.

With 600 persons still missing in Freetown, President Ernest Bai Koroma described the humanitarian challenge ahead as “overwhelming”.

He said flags would fly at half-mast and called for urgent help after visiting the devastated hilltop community of Regent on Tuesday (15 August).

Aid organisations meanwhile warned that the rainy season was not yet over and that more flooding could arrive at any moment in the West African coastal city of around a million people.

Officials at Freetown’s central morgue said yesterday that 105 of the more than 300 officially dead were children. An independent but unofficial morgue estimate put the toll at 400 dead.

The government of Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, has promised relief for what the Red Cross says is more than 3,000 people left homeless by the disaster.

The authorities have opened an emergency response centre in Regent and registration centres to count those left on the streets.

Several UN agencies have ramped up efforts in Freetown, including the World Food Programme’s (WFP) distribution of two-week rations of rice, pulses and cooking oil to 7,500 people. The first Israeli aid packages arrived and West African governments delivered cash and rice.

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