Liberia: Mudslide Death Toll Reaches 11 As Survivors Left Without Financial Assistance, Struggle to Cater to Mediation and Needs

Chio Town — Aaron Harris, an injured person from the…

Chio Town — Aaron Harris, an injured person from the Chio Town mudslide who was being treated at the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia, was confirmed dead on Sunday morning by authorities. This brings the number of casualties to 11. Apart from the initial ten individuals who were discovered and confirmed dead by authorities following Monday night’s mudslide at an abandoned mine in Chio Town, there were approximately seven critically wounded, including Harris, who were taken to different hospitals and herbalists.

An investigation by FrontPageAfrica revealed that minutes following the incident, some people who were on the scene rushed to rescue their friends or family members. Seven persons were removed from under the debris alive but critically injured, and about five others sustained minor injuries. The injured were hastily evacuated from the area that night. Some were taken to Gbediah Hospital and were later referred to the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia. Additionally, there were those who were outside the pit but got hit by loose dirt. Three persons were taken to traditional bone specialists. Many of those who sustained minor injuries or did not sustain any at all went into hiding that night for fear of being arrested and questioned by authorities.

Cyrus Morris, aged 14, the son of a farmer, was rescued by his mother, Patience Morris, that night. The minor said he was thrown out of school for fees the week before the incident.

“Going to school, my people dem not get no money to pay my school fees, that the time I go there (at the mine) to hustle,” Cyrus cried as he rubbed his leg in order to ease the pain. “The time we went on the field, I took the first bag [of gravel], nothing happened, I took the second bag, still nothing happened. The third bag, that’s when the dirt broke. The dirt broke, and it carried me away under.”

Cyrus’ mother, Patience Morris, had heard that her son was at the mine and she had gone there in search of him. Immediately upon arrival, the mudslide occurred. According to her, Cyrus’ whole body was covered by dirt, but a portion of his shirt was not covered, and she could recognize it was her son’s shirt.

“As soon as I saw his shirt, I started digging around him with my hands, moving the dirt from around him,” Patience explained as she sat under her hut near her fire hearth. “When I saw his head, that’s when I grabbed a shovel and started digging.”

Patience pulled out Cyrus alive but noticed one of his legs was broken. He was then rushed out of the area by his father, Enoch Morris, who took him to the herbalist.

Another survivor, only identified as Saynwere in his 20s, was rescued by his friends. Saynwere, a father of four, said he went to the mine with the hope of making some money to feed and pay his kids’ school fees.

“My wife is pregnant, and we’re not doing anything,” Saynwere said. “So when you hear that there’s gold somewhere, you’ll go there, but I never knew this kind of thing was going to happen.”

Like Cyrus, Saynwere also had his leg broken. According to him, he was bending his back when the dirt fell and covered him. While underground, Saynwere fought for his survival.

“God put the idea in my head, and I started digging. I made a big hole underground and I put my head there, then I could breathe properly.” He said he was crying for help when his friends heard him and began digging around him to get him out of the pit. Like Cyrus, one of Saynwere’s legs was broken. Both Saynwere and Cyrus are now with the herbalist who is requesting L$20,000 from each of them before commencing “real treatment.”

The River Cess Legislative Caucus left the scene a day before the non-discovery rescue search. The National Disaster Management Agency also departed. Currently, only the AFL patrol team is on the ground. Victims’ families and survivors said they have not received any form of assistance, whether in cash or kind, from both local and national government.

“The government people are not helping us,” said Naomi Chappy, sister of Tardeh Chappy, one of those who were discovered dead. Naomi said her brother was the father of six children. Ansu Dulleh, head of Liberia’s Disaster Management Agency, told NN/FPA on the phone that his agency has yet to receive funding from the government for survivors or victims’ families, but plans are underway.

“While awaiting funding from the government, we are also in talks with other NGOs to see if they can assist in the process,” Dulleh said. On Tuesday morning, residents of Chio Town woke up to the news of a mudslide at an abandoned gold mine in Chio Town. Ten bodies were discovered by volunteer rescuers and confirmed dead by authorities. On Friday, four days following the incident, a disaster management team comprised of the Armed Forces of Liberia, the Liberia National Police, the National Disaster Management Agency, the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Ministry of Health, the Liberia National Red Cross Society, and the local authority of River Cess used an excavator provided by Bea Mountain Mining Company through efforts of the Ministry of Mines and Energy to dig the abandoned pit in search of presumed dead bodies, but no additional dead bodies were discovered.