Death toll from Sierra Leone mudslides nears 500

Churches across Sierra Leone have held special services in memory of those killed in mudslides and flooding earlier this week, as hospital officials announced the death toll had risen to nearly 500.

More than 600 people remain missing and rescue officials have warned that the chances of finding survivors are decreasing each day.

The death toll earlier stood at 450.

Death toll from Sierra Leone mudslides nears 500

The Inter-Religious Council called for the services to be held on Sunday in honour of the deceased, as special prayers were offered in mosques on Friday and Sunday.

The preacher at Buxton Memorial Methodist Church in Freetown, the capital, offered a sermon that looked at mankind's contribution to the disaster.

Large-scale burials have taken place all this week amid rainy weather that threatened further mudslides.

The government of the impoverished West African nation in recent days has warned residents to evacuate a mountainside where a large crack has opened.

Thousands of people live in areas at risk and the main focus is making sure they leave before further disaster, authorities have said.

Aid groups are providing clean water as a health crisis looms.

Saidu Kanu, country director for World Hope International, said water sources have been contaminated and that officials "fear for an outbreak of waterborne diseases".

Foreign aid from the rest of the world is being sent to Freetown, said authorities.

AP

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