by Alusine Sesay and Wang Xiaopeng
FREETOWN, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Chinese companies operating in Sierra Leone have been playing a leading role in the rescue efforts and also the provision of humanitarian aid to people affected by a deadly flooding and landslide disaster that killed more than 330 residents and left many more homeless earlier this week.
Their work added to the disaster relief work launched by the government, youths, and development partners in the country, which was driven into a somber mood after the disaster took place in the mountainous area of Freetown on Monday.
"When the disaster erupted on Monday, we needed machinery to remove bodies from the rubble. China Railway Seventh Group (CRSG) brought two excavators, shovels, pick axes and manpower to help in the rescue operation," said Joseph Kargbo, a Sierra Leone Roads Authority Engineer in charge of the rescue operation at Mortemeh, Sugar Loaf in Freetown.
"The contribution of the company has been immense. The CRSG has assisted not only in this disaster, but in other areas as well. They cleared the road to the disaster site after it was blocked by the rumble," he said.
The disaster brought with it lots of problems ranging from health, housing, clothing to other humanitarian challenges. Affected family members are provided with temporary housing in schools across Freetown, and the people are in need of medical attention.
At one of the Primary Schools in the Regent Community, women and children are clustered in a single room, which risks creating room for the spread of diseases.
The situation worried the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) team in Sierra Leone, who planned to construct two tents to provide basic medical care to the affected people that are housed in the school.
"We are concerned about the post disaster disease, so we are trying to separate the people to prevent them from spreading diseases," said Xiao Ning, head of China CDC team in Sierra Leone.
"As you can see, the environment is not good for the people. We need to do something including health education and vector control," he said.
Xiao said one of the tents would be used to perform surgery on people who suffered trauma, while the other would be used to treat people who suffered from certain disease conditions.
"We are here to help people and prevent the outbreak of diseases," he said.
The China CDC team has been working with the Chinese medical team and Chinese military medical team in the site of the landslide in the past few days, trying to facilitate the disaster relief work.
When President Ernest Bai Koroma made a call for humanitarian assistance after the disaster took place on Monday, the Chinese community including Chinese companies operating in Sierra Leone made a donation of about 100,000 U.S. dollars in cash and other emergency materials towards the victims of the flooding and landslide.
The donation was received by Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh who is overseeing the committee receiving all donations relating to the emergency response.
Like they did during the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, the Chinese government decided to donate one million U.S. dollars to Sierra Leone as immediate response to the flooding and landslide tragedy.
Alhaji Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay, minister of works, housing and infrastructure, told Xinhua that the support from Chinese companies was good and prompt. He believed the cooperation between Chinese rescue workers and local organizations was fruitful and beneficial.
Working with employees of China Civic Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) along the coastline affected the landslide, Yassin Kargbo, general manager of National Tourist Board of Sierra Leone, said the Chinese company was swift in response and very helpful in the rescue work.
The CCECC on Friday provided a bulldozer and two trucks to help clean up the beaches, which was strewn with items flooded from the landslide site.
Kargbo told Xinhua that the Chinese company is the only foreign force helping on the beaches so far.
Flooding and landslide sparked by torrential rains and onrush of water from the slopes of Sugar Loaf have adversely affected communities on the outskirts of Freetown.
Government has set up a response centre to coordinate emergency response efforts under the following pillars: health and burial, social welfare, security and rescue, logistics and communications.
While a dignified burial of over three hundred victims was yesterday done at Waterloo in the outskirts of Freetown, rescue operation is still in progress.
As the country tries to regain calm after the disaster, humanitarian needs ranging from health, food, housing and clothing still remain.