At least six people were killed when a decades-old bridge collapsed in heavy rain in the capital of Sierra Leone on Friday, leaving dozens feared trapped in the rubble and sparking a major rescue operation, police said.
The King Jimmy crossing, which connects the west of the capital with the city centre, collapsed at around 04:00 am. Six bodies were recovered from the scene, police said in a statement, without giving details about the victims.
“Many more are still believed to be trapped in the wreckage,” a senior security official told reporters. Rescue workers as well as military officers and policemen were scouring the accident site for survivors as torrential rain continued to lash the city.
Local residents told AFP that dozens of homeless youngsters usually live under the bridge in the rundown area, sparking fears they were buried when the structure gave way.
“There was a slight rumble and then the bridge snapped amidst a hale of choking brown dust,” said one witness, who did not wish to be named. Works Minister Alimamy Koroma visited the scene and said it was “an unfortunate disaster which will be thoroughly investigated” while the mayor of Freetown, Bode Gibson, called it “a sad development”.
The bridge is one of the major crossings in central Freetown. It is named after a chief who led a local tribe around the 1700s and is located near a vibrant riverside market from where thousands of people were trafficked as slaves to the Americas in the 18th century