Mudslides and torrential flooding killed at least 250 people in and around Sierra Leone's capital early Monday following heavy rains, with many victims trapped in homes buried under tons of mud, the AP reports. Survivors and volunteers dug through the mud and debris at times with their bare hands in a desperate search for missing relatives, and military personnel were deployed to help with the rescue operation in the West African nation. Initial Red Cross estimates said as many as 3,000 people have been left homeless by the disaster, and the figure is expected to rise. Communications and electricity also have been affected.
The mortuary at Connaught Hospital was overwhelmed by the number of dead, and bodies had to be spread out on the floor, said coroner's technician Sinneh Kamara. At least 250 bodies had been brought to the facility already, and that toll did not include the untold numbers buried alive in their homes as they slept. More bodies also were expected to be found as floodwaters receded. Homes were destroyed by the flooding, while others were inundated by the floods, leaving many without shelter, said Sasha Ekanayake, the Sierra Leone director for the charity Save the Children, adding that some children have been separated from their families. (Read more Sierra Leone stories.)