Description of the disaster
In the early hours of 14th August 2017, torrential rains caused parts of Mount Sugar Loaf, a range of hills surrounding Freetown, to slide into the Regent Village vicinity. This led to heavy loss of life and property at the epicenter and downstream at Juba, Lumley, Kaningo/Kamayama axis. The communities affected included Juba, Regent, Matome, Bambaira Culvert, Kamayama, Jah kingdom Kaningo and Dwazark. The site of the mudslide on the hill at Regent is adjacent to a squatter settlement on a restricted and high-risk area. On the foot of the same hill, a permanent stream was interfered with by the mudslide, the saturated and highly mobile debris flow carrying soft clay (mud), boulders altered the width of the river causing it to change its course and increasing its volume exacerbating the effect in terms of scope of coverage and destruction.
According to the Public Health National Emergency center, 413 bodies were conveyed to the central morgue between 14-15 August 2017. Of these, only six bodies were identified by family members. Upon request from the family members, two bodies were handed over to the families and the rest of the bodies were buried at Waterloo cemetery. The search and rescue continued at the site, the Office of the National Security (ONS) confirmed 502 deaths and 600 more classified as missing. Response teams, led by the Sierra Leone Armed Forces and SLRCS volunteers, conducted evacuation, search & rescue, removed dead bodies and provided medical care to the injured. The role of the Red Cross was well recognized in the media such as Reuters, AFP, ABC, CNN, BBC (various), EFE, DPA, CTV (Canada).
The floods caused widespread destruction of at least 1,245 properties with over 300 houses being destroyed. According to ONS information, the mudslides rendered 11,816 people displaced of which over 7,000 were sheltered in temporary camps in Freetown. Moreover, the livelihoods of the affected people were completely disrupted. According to primary ONS assessments: 52% of the populations were living on small trade whereas 18% relied on physical labour skilled or non-skilled and 6% were in formal transport business including motor cyclists with 7% formally salaried. Apart from those directly affected, over 20,000 more were at risk due to increased demand on the already poor water and sanitation services.
The government established IDP camps in Freetown. Temporary shelters and other basic services such as water, sanitation, health was provided to the displaced families. Food was provided by WFP in a wet ration of three meals a day. During this period, Sierra Leone Red cross provided hygiene promotion and psychosocial support with ambulance referral service on daily basis to the camp population.
On the 15th of August 2017, the Government of Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency requesting for International assistance. In response to the declaration, on the 15th of August 2017, the Sierra Leone Red Cross with support from the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal to the tune of CHF 4.6 Million to assist at lest 4,800 people affected by the floods for a period of 10 months. Due to the need to urgently conduct immediate search and rescue activities and provide lifesaving services to the affected communities, a DREF of CHF 271,032 was granted to the National society.
As the Appeal was developed, the greatest need was mainly on the provision of shelter to the affected communities whilst in a camp setting. As such almost 60% of the requested funds was focusing on the provision of temporary shelter. However, the Government policy was against the settling of affected people in camps as their strategy was to remove people from the flood prone communities. This policy hence demanded a shift in the focus of the Appeal and a delay in implementation of operational activities. Based on this, a revision of the Emergency Appeal was done on the 17th of December 2017. Through the Appeal, the IFRC and Sierra Leone Red Cross Society aimed towards assisting vulnerable communities that were directly affected by the mudslide by targeting some 1,000 families (6,000 individuals) through provision of basic needs and early recovery support for reintegration. The support extended to 20,000 individuals at risk through DRR support and awareness activities until March 2019.