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Freetown’s mudslides and the slippery slope of urban risk in Africa
September 4, 2017
On Monday 14 August, the world awoke to reports of devastation caused by large-scale mudslides and localised flooding in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s rapidly urbanising capital.
The death toll rose within a few days to approximately 500, with several hundred more people reported missing and thousands displaced. The full extent of this disaster and the exact losses are not immediately known and may never be fully investigated.
As harrowing images drew in global sympathy, predictable post-disaster patterns ensued: sporadic inputs of disaster relief, political speeches and tours of affected sites, and a few days of “declared” national mourning.
However, beyond this short-term intervention, the persistence of African urban risk and frequent disaster events raise issues that require urgent attention.