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, 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 U.N. 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.
Searchers told VOA's English to Africa service there is little hope of finding more survivors.
A Freetown mortuary is overwhelmed with bodies. While some families have identified some of the dead, officials are planning to begin mass burials Thursday.
A spokesman for the Red Cross told the French News Agency that the group had accounted for at least 312 dead. Officials say thousands of others have been left homeless.
The mudslide occurred early Monday while many Freetown residents were 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.
Officials expect corpses to pop up in unexpected places for months to come, as many bodies were carried away from the Regent area by floodwaters.
Freetown is often hit by heavy rain and flooding for several months a year.