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Environment

A Mudslide in Sierra Leone Just Wiped Away Hundreds of Homes and People

Rescue workers search for survivors following a mudslide in Regent, east of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Monday, Aug. 14 , 2017. Mudslides and torrential flooding killed many people in and around Sierra Leone's capital early Monday following heavy rains, with many victims thought to be trapped in homes buried under tons of mud. (AP Photo/ Manika Kamara)

A catastrophic mudslide in Sierra Leone is believed to have killed hundreds of people and left more than 2,000 others homeless this week.

Heavy rain on Sunday night and early Monday morning led to the total collapse of a hillside in the town of Regent, about 15 miles east of Freetown, the nation’s capital, according to The Guardian.

Houses that were built on the side of the hill collapsed and slid along with the mud, as the power of the rain and mudslide toppled homes and larger buildings and buried people, Kelfa Kargbo, from the organization Street Child, told The Guardian.

Many of the homes were made of unstable materials and were not able to withstand the water, according to the report. Heavy rains and flooding threaten unstable and unsafe housing almost every year during Sierra Leone’s rainy season, according to The Guardian. The country has a serious housing deficit, particularly for the poor, the report noted. Global Citizen campaigns for countries around the world to achieve the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 11, "Sustainable Cities and Communities," which seeks to "make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable."

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One resident, Fatmata Sesay, told AFP that she awoke around 4:30 a.m. Monday to find that their house, made of mud, was already filled with water. She managed to escape to the roof.

“We have lost everything and we do not have a place to sleep,” she told AFP.

Rescue searches began almost immediately Monday morning and included residents, emergency workers and the military, but the country lacked the equipment and preparedness that normally accompanies such searches, Kargbo said.

“Construction companies have brought in their power tillers to help dig up bodies. There’s no equipment. This is unprecedented and Sierra Leone was ill-prepared for such a catastrophe,” she told The Guardian.

No survivors were found after 7 a.m. Monday morning, according to Kargbo.

The capital city’s morgues have been filled with bodies discovered in the wreckage and an estimated 312 individuals are believed to have died, according to International Federation of Red Cross.

And still, the death toll could climb higher.

“It is likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble,” Victor Foh, the country’s vice president, told Reuters. “The disaster is so serious that I myself feel broken. We’re trying to cordon [off] the area [and] evacuate the people.”