UK & World News

  • 21 August 2014, 7:17

Clashes As Liberia Slum Sealed Off To Curb Ebola

Liberian security forces have clashed with desperate protesters after using scrap wood and barbed wire to seal off a sprawling slum to prevent ebola from spreading.

Hundreds of angry protesters took to the streets on Wednesday to confront riot police and soldiers who reportedly fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse the stone-throwing crowd.

Residents vented their fury at the government for isolating their West Point neighbourhood in the Liberian capital Monrovia and said they were given no warning of the blockade which has prevented some 50,000 people from getting to work or buying food.

"I don't have any food and we're scared," said Alpha Barry, a resident with four children under the age of 13.

The coastguard was also in action, patrolling sewage-strewn waters offshore to ensure no one fled the area by sea.

And there was further fury when relatives of Miata Flowers, the local government representative, were escorted away from the slum by security forces.

Around four people were injured in the clashes which erupted as the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised the total death toll from the ebola epidemic to 1,350 - and warned the disease was spreading fastest in Liberia, where at least 576 people have died.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered a nationwide curfew - and the West Point barricades - insisting the country had been unable to control the spread of ebola.

She blamed the rising death toll on denial, defiance of authorities and cultural burial practices.

However, residents have accused the government of being slow to remove dumped infected bodies from the streets, some of which have been left for hours and days.

On Tuesday, protesters broke into an isolation clinic housing 29 patients in West Point - 17 of whom fled and were later found.

WHO officials have warned that measures to restrict travel in heavily infected areas, including quarantines of whole villages and counties, are limiting access to food and medical supplies in many cases.

West Point is one of the capital's poorest and most densely populated neighbourhoods, with poor sanitation and overcrowding.

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