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Sierra Leone churches hold services for mudslide victims

FILE- In this Tuesday, Aug.15, 2017 file photo, volunteers search for bodies from the scene of heavy flooding and mudslides in Regent, just outside of Sierra Leone's capital Freetown. Survivors picking through the debris of Sierra Leone's deadly mudslides are facing the reality that most, if not all, of the estimated 600 people missing are dead. (AP Photo/ Manika Kamara, File)

FREETOWN — Churches across Sierra Leone held special services yesterday in memory of the more than 450 people who were killed in mudslides and flooding earlier this week.

More than 600 people remain missing and rescue officials have warned that the chances of finding survivors are decreasing each day.

The Inter-Religious Council called for the services to be held yesterday in honor of the deceased, as special prayers and recitals were offered in mosques Friday and yesterday.

The preacher at Buxton Memorial Methodist Church in Freetown, the capital, offered a sermon that looked at mankind's contribution to the disaster, as a gospel band rendered the song "Papa God Sorry for Salone (Sierra Leone)."

Large-scale-burials have taken place all this week amid rainy weather that threatened further mudslides.

The government of the impoverished West African nation in recent days has warned residents to evacuate a mountainside where a large crack has opened. Thousands of people live in areas at risk and the main focus is making sure they leave before further disaster, authorities have told local media.

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Aid groups are providing clean water as a health crisis looms.

"Water sources have been contaminated" and that officials they "fear for an outbreak of waterborne diseases," said Saidu Kanu, country director for World Hope International.

Foreign aid from the rest of the world is being sent to Freetown, said authorities.

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