Mudslides bury at least 45 people in northwestern Liberia

Mudslides bury at least 45 people in northwestern Liberia

Mudslides struck two mining sites in the towns of Masakpa and Bangoma in gold-rich Grand Cape Mount County, northwestern Liberia, at 18:00 UTC on May 4, 2020. At least 45 people were buried in the rubble. Some reports mention the number of people buried might surpass 60.

Officials went to the scene early Tuesday to conduct search and rescue operations. Among those involved are officers of the Liberia National Police, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Disaster Management, the Liberia National Red Cross Society, and the Grand Cape Mount County Health Team, as well as local youth leaders.

Emmanuel Swen, assistant minister at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, confirmed that 45 bodies had been retrieved so far, and search is underway to recover others still trapped under the mud.

Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf has yet to confirm the total number of fatalities, adding that an investigation on the incident is still ongoing.

Bangoma youth leader Banku Sheriff, who was part of the rescue team, said the victims were part of illegal mining activities in both towns that are rich in gold and diamond. 

Recently, citizens of Tawor District have complained about a Chinese mining company, which is allegedly behind the illegal mining in the area. 

City mayor Edwin Koha called on the government to promptly provide food and shelter assistance to hundreds of residents affected by the landslides.

Grand Cape Mount residents offered prayers after the disaster in observance of Ramadan, as they also prepared to bury some of the bodies in a mass grave.

In February 2019, the government declared a national mourning period more than 21 people were killed in a mudslide in the Gbanipea town in Tappita district, Lower Nimba.

Featured image credit: Liberia National Red Cross Society

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