IMPACT – MEDIUM

Flooding and mudslides have devastated entire communities in Freetown and other cities in Sierra Leone, leaving roads blocked and government services disrupted. The United States and United Kingdom have advised caution when traveling to or inside of the country.

Key points:

  • Heavy rain this week caused massive flooding and mudslides, hitting Freetown and the Regent area south of the capital city especially hard. Bo, Sierra Leone’s second largest city, was also struck. Hundreds of people have been confirmed dead and hundreds others are missing. Government services have been largely redirected toward disaster relief, and immigration services are likely to be delayed in the days ahead.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Freetown has advised U.S. citizens to “avoid areas affected by flooding” and to “please contact your families to let them know you are safe.” The U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said those in affected areas or planning travel to Sierra Leone should “monitor local news and follow the advice of the local authorities.” The office also advises anyone traveling outside the Freetown peninsula to “try to complete your travel during the hours of daylight, inform your employers of your whereabouts and make sure they have copies of your itinerary.”

BAL Analysis: Those in need of immigration services should expect delays. While the Lungi International Airport, which serves Freetown, remains open, travel within Sierra Leone may be disrupted as many roads are blocked. Foreign nationals may wish to consider delaying nonessential travel to Sierra Leone.

Those in the country should exercise caution. Traveling at night may be particularly dangerous. Companies with personnel in Sierra Leone should account for their employees and identify their locations in case they need to be evacuated. U.S. citizens can enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service that provides updated security information and allows Americans to register their trips abroad with the closest U.S. embassy or consulate.