Hundreds of people are believed to have died after a mudslide flattened dozens of houses on the outskirts of Freetown. Sierra Leone's official coroner has said more than 200 bodies have already brought into the morgue.
Sierra Leone Vice President Victor Foh said it was "likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble" after a mudslide and heavy flooding hit a mountain town on the outskirts of the capital, Freetown, on Monday.
"The disaster is so serious that I myself feel broken," he added. "We're trying to cordon (off) the area (and) evacuate the people."
Sierra Leone national television interrupted its regular programming to broadcast images of people digging through the mud, desperate to retrieve the bodies of loved ones. Pictures also showed people carrying their victims' remains in rice sacks to the local morgue.
Officials said that military forces would be deployed to help in the rescue efforts in the densely populated area, where at least 100 building are thought to have collapsed.
Pictures posted by local residents on Twitter showed streets in the capital transformed into churning rivers and locals waist deep in the muddy waters.
The country's deputy information officer said it was still trying to compile exact number of casualties. However, a coroner's official told the Associated Press news agency that more than 200 bodies had already been recovered.
The city of Freetown had been battered by severe storms and flooding throughout the day.
The country often finds itself engulfed by severe floods over the rainy season, while unsafe housing with poor drainage systems have seen scores of people killed and led to high rates of homelessness. Foh indicated that the engulfed area had seen a number of illegal buildings recently erected.
Sierra Leone was one of the worst affected countries in western Africa by the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, which left more than 4,000 people dead. Its economy has struggled to recover since the outbreak, with around 60 percent of people still living below the national poverty line, according to the United Nations Development Program.
(AP, AFP, Reuters)