At least 179 people have been killed in a mudslide near Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, the Red Cross says.
A hillside in the Regent area collapsed early on Monday following heavy rains, leaving many houses covered in mud.
A BBC reporter at the scene says many people may have been asleep when the mudslide occurred.
Sierra Leone’s Vice-President Victor Bockarie Foh said it was “likely that hundreds are lying dead”. The total number of casualties is likely to rise.
Mr Foh told Reuters news agency that the disaster was “so serious that I myself feel broken”. He said that the area was being cordoned off as people were being evacuated, including many still feared trapped in their homes.
A spokesman for the Red Cross, Abu Bakarr Tarawallie, told the same news agency that 179 bodies had been taken to the central morgue in Freetown.
Hundreds of people are likely to be left homeless following the mudslide.
A Sierra Leonean disaster management official, Candy Rogers, said that “over 2,000 people are homeless” as a result of the mudslide in the Regent area, AFP reports.
Mr Rogers said that a huge humanitarian effort will be required to deal with the aftermath of the flooding.
People are wailing uncontrollably; one woman told me she had lost more than 11 members of her family in the disaster, while another man said he had lost his wife, mother-in-law and children.
Hundreds of people are still coming to the area to look for their loved ones. Some of them told me they have not been able to find them.
In fact, there is no sign of the dozens of homes that were built at the foot of Mount Sugar Loaf.
They are covered in mud, with large areas of mire in some parts. It looks strong, but it is flaky. The concern is that if people walk there they risk sinking in the mud.
Emergency services are at the scene trying to rescue people trapped in their homes after a section of a hill collapsed, the Sierra Leone Telegraph reports.
Images posted on Twitter show people wading through streets, waist-deep in muddy water following the downpour in and around Freetown.