Two die in Sierra Leone riot sparked by Ebola tests
22 October 2014, 20:05
Freetown - Two people died in a riot in Sierra Leone sparked when health workers struggling to contain the Ebola epidemic tried to take a blood sample from an elderly woman, doctors told AFP on Wednesday.
A machete-wielding mob clashed with security personnel in the eastern town of Koidu and then went on a rampage on Tuesday, after preventing a medical team from taking the blood from the 90-year-old mother of a youth leader, doctors from the local government hospital said.
The woman, who had been suspected to be infected with Ebola, had died and was thought to have high blood pressure.
Sierra Leone is one of three west African nations hardest hit by the deadly Ebola epidemic, the world's worst ever.
At least 1 200 people have died in the country, from 3 410 infections, as of October 14, according to latest World Health Organization figures.
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Globally, more than 4 500 people have died, most of them in Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia and Guinea.
Health teams are working desperately in those African states to try to slow the alarming spread of the virus, which is fatal in most cases and has no vaccine nor sure treatment.
Tuesday's unrest erupted when a crowd holding machetes and shovels stopped one team in the diamond mining town of Koidu from testing the elderly woman.
When the health workers called in security guards for protection, the violence grew into a riot, resulting in the two deaths and 10 people being wounded, the doctors the Koidu Government Hospital said.
"Two bodies are now at the mortuary. I cannot say whether they have bullet wounds or what caused their deaths as the corpses have not yet been examined," said one of the doctors who asked not to be identified.
He said a number of people including security personnel had been brought in with non life-threatening wounds.
"Ebola contact tracers visited the house of a prominent youth leader to take a blood sample of his ailing 90-year-old mother but were barred by a gang of youths" who angrily disputed that the woman had the disease, a witness said.
In the ensuing rampage, several buildings including the community-run Eastern Radio station were attacked.
A day-long curfew was imposed by police as gangs of youths roamed the streets shouting "No more Ebola!"
The son of the elderly woman, a youth leader named Adamu Eze, commands wide support in the town. Police were looking for him but he was said to have gone into hiding.
Local police chief David Koroma told AFP that calm had returned to Koidu Wednesday but that the area remained tense.
He added that officers were watching the situation and that "people should go about their normal business without fear".