PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - The map says Southwest Philadelphia the 6500 block of Woodland Avenue to be precise. But the vibe, stores restaurants, music and clothing says Western Africa. Sierra Leone in particular. The immigrant community here is heartbroken.
"My brother, as you can see my attire, you see I'm in black,” says community leader Gombie Tonyayia to FOX 29's Bruce Gordon. “I'm mourning. It has never, ever happened before in our country like this."
Before dawn Monday, torrential rains lead to mudslides that wiped out mountain-side shacks just east of the capital city of Freetown.
"Can you imagine,” says Tonyayia. “People are sleeping at night when the thing happened. And then, all of the sudden, no more. Engulfed by the mud."
Several hundred people are dead twice that number are missing and thousands more are homeless.
"Most of my family lives in that area," said Mohamed Kamara. “And yesterday I got a message that most of my family died from the mudslide. I was crying all of the day.”
The Sierra Leone immigrants here tell FOX 29 that mudslide victims were warned not to build on that unstable mountainside, but that the government could not or would not enforce its own regulations.
Philadelphia may not be home to the most efficient government in the world, but these immigrants say Sierra Leone wrote the book on dysfunction.
“Why can’t the government enforce laws?” asks Tonyayia. “They have all these fanciful laws on paper, but to implement them—implementation is the problem.”
Store owner Sidie Saccoh agrees
"Yes, it's a natural disaster, but it's a disaster that could have been prevented, or minimized."
Over the past twenty years, Sierra Leone has experienced a civil war, and Ebola outbreak, and now this mudslide disaster.
“The people have been through a whole lot,” said Haroun Bangura, while holding his 5-month-old daughter Saibatu in his arms. “It’s just too much.”