Sierra Leone: Police Fire Tear Gas On Crowd During Ebola Lockdown

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Sierra Leone: Police Fire Tear Gas On Crowd During Ebola Lockdown

Residents defied a three day national ebola lockdown in Sierra Leone on Saturday, leaving  their homes in search of food and water.

Police fired tear gas on one angry crowd who were fighting over food supplies.

The government hopes that the lockdown will accelerate the end of the Ebola epidemic

Reuters report: Officials have ordered the six million residents to stay indoors on pain of arrest as hundreds of health officials go door-to-door looking for hidden patients and educating residents about the hemorrhagic fever.

Residents in and around Freetown, one of the last Ebola hotspots, were told to stock up on food and water but on the second day of the campaign some said they had already run out. Officials are distributing supplies only in very poor areas.

In the Devil Hole neighborhood hundreds of people left their homes to gather at a food collection point. Some residents complained they had not received food and fighting broke out until police arrived to scatter the crowd, making several arrests.

“People are desperate for food because of how the distribution is going,” said resident Adam Dumbuya. “This has led to panic.”

Elsewhere in the dense slums of eastern and central Freetown, residents defied the lockdown rules and wandered out onto the streets in search of supplies.

“We have exhausted this morning all we could manage to stock up,” said 51-year-old Ibrahim Kanu, a father of six, as he struggled to get rice in the crowd at East Brook Street in Freetown. Soldiers put a cordon in place there to contain the swelling crowd where people stood packed together, despite the risks of Ebola transmission via bodily fluids such as blood and sweat.

At Kissy Road in the east of Freetown, mostly women and children wandered into the twisting streets with buckets and yellow jerry cans to replenish water supplies. One man wandered out to bathe in a sewer, a Reuters reporter said.

Some charities have criticized lockdowns as heavy-handed and counter-productive, pointing to riots in neighboring Liberia’s capital last August in which a teenaged boy was killed.