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Mass Burials Begin in Sierra Leone After Massive Mudslides

Mass burials will begin Thursday for victims of mudslides and floods that took place earlier this week, and officials fear more death and destruction is “imminent.”

The death toll from the disaster has risen to at least 300, about a third of whom were children. The mudslides began Monday following heavy rains that collapsed a hillside and washed away homes built precariously atop it.

Citizens were told they need to identify their dead family members at the overcrowded central morgue by Wednesday night, and mass burials were set to begin at 3 p.m.

President Ernest Bai Koroma, who has been blamed for exacerbating the damage from the mudslide due to his failure to tackle illegal construction in the nation’s capital, is expected to attend the ceremony for those killed.

The mudslide occurred early Monday while many Freetown residents were still sleeping, after hours of heavy rains. Witnesses described a particularly hard-hit area in the Regent district, saying roads became “churning rivers of mud.”

Photos and video posted by local residents showed people chest deep in mud trying to traverse the roads.

‘Unprecedented’

Adbul Nasir of the International Red Cross told the French Press Agency that several, smaller mudslides have occurred in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown since Monday and he fears that “more trouble is imminent.”

UNICEF called the scale of damage from the mudslides “unprecedented” and said its teams have been providing safe drinking water and sanitation to the large number of children affected by the disaster.

“Children have been left homeless, vulnerable and terrified. We must do all we can to protect them from disease and exploitation,” said UNICEF Representative Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim.

According to U.N. estimates, more than 600 people are still unaccounted for following the mudslides, and a representative said Wednesday the organization is losing hope they will be found.

Sunil Saigal, the U.N. Resident Coordinator for Sierra Leone, told British broadcaster Sky News he believes rescue operations will soon cease as “the hope of finding further survivors diminishes.”

“It remains a priority to recover the remains of those who perished in the landslide, but also equally to help survivors and help the community,” Saigal said.

He said the UN is working with the government to provide “physical protection” for those thousands of people displaced or otherwise affected by the landslide.

“We’re working with the authorities to prevent disease outbreaks, cholera. You know we’re in the rainy season, waterborne diseases are rife, mosquitoes, Malaria is a risk,” Saigal said.

The Sierra Leone government has asked for international assistance, and said it’s doing all it can to stem the outbreak of deadly diseases.

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UNHCR: South Sudan Refugees in Uganda Top One Million

[unable to retrieve full-text content]An average of 1,800 South Sudanese have been arriving daily in Uganda over the past year, with another one million taking refuge Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Repu…

ICC Orders Ex-Islamic Radical to Pay Damages for Destruction of Mali Shrines

The International Criminal Court has ordered an Islamic extremist to pay $3.2 million in restitution for destroying centuries-old religious shrines in Mali.Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was convicted by the court last year for overseeing the destruction of ni…

UN: Finding Survivors in Sierra Leone Mudslide Unlikely

A United Nations representative in Sierra Leone said Wednesday he is losing hope that rescuers will find survivors after deadly mudslides in Sierra Leone’s capital killed more than 300 people.Sunil Saigal, the U.N. Resident Coordinator for Sierra Leone…

Death Toll Passes 300 in Flood-Stricken Sierra Leone Capital

At least 300 people are confirmed dead a day after mudslides and heavy flooding struck Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.Authorities say they expect the death toll to rise as search teams, military personnel and distraught relatives continue diggin…

Wife of Zimbabwe President Mugabe Accused of Assault in South Africa

Grace Mugabe, the first lady of Zimbabwe, will appear in a South African courtroom Tuesday to face charges of assaulting a young woman at a luxury Johannesburg hotel on Sunday.Fikile Mbalula, South Africa’s minister of police, told reporters that Mugab…

Gunmen Attack UN Base in Mali; 7 Dead

The United Nations says gunmen have attacked a U.N. peacekeeping base in the northern Mali city of Timbuktu, killing seven people.

U.N. officials say the dead include five Malian security guards, a gendarme and a Malian contractor working for the U.N. mission.

They say six assailants were also killed by U.N. peacekeepers during the Monday afternoon attack.

The violence follows an attack earlier Monday in which armed men opened fire on U.N. peacekeepers and Malian troops in the central Malian town of Douentza. One peacekeeper and one Malian soldier were killed in that attack.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attacks and said they may constitute war crimes under international law.

No one has claimed responsibility for Monday’s violence, however Islamist militants frequently target the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali. More than 100 peacekeepers have been killed in Mali, making it the most deadly of the United Nations’ 16 global peacekeeping operations.

U.N. peacekeepers along with French forces are in Mali to help the country deal with the remnants of an Islamic insurgency in the north. Al-Qaida-linked militants briefly took over the north of the country in 2012 after a failed coup in Bamako.

The militants have also spread to southern Mali, along the border with Burkina Faso.

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EEOC Finds Reasonable Cause Cargill Violated the Rights of Somali-American Muslim Workers

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined there is reasonable cause that the civil rights of Somali-American Muslims were violated when agri-business giant Cargill refused to allow them to pray at a meatpacking plant it owns in th…

Zuma's Fate to Be Decided in Parliamentary No-Confidence Vote

South African lawmakers have started debating a no-confidence motion that could drive long-serving President Jacob Zuma from office.Zuma has survived previous no-confidence votes since first taking office in 2009, despite constant allegations of corrup…

11 Killed in Attack at Nigerian Church

Authorities in Nigeria said 11 people were killed and 18 others critically wounded in an attack on a church in the southeastern part of the country.Initially witnesses said the attack was carried out by at least two gunmen, but Garba Umar, police commi…

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