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WHO: West Africa Ebola death toll rises to 1,350

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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Riot police and soldiers acting on their president’s orders used scrap wood and barbed wire to seal off 50,000 people inside their Liberian slum Wednesday, trying to contain the Ebola outbreak that has killed 1,350 people and counting across West Africa.

Hundreds of the slum’s residents clashed with the gunmen, furious at being blamed and isolated by a government that has failed to quickly collect dead bodies from the streets of Liberia’s capital. One 15-year-old boy was injured trying to cross the barbed wire as security forces fired into the air to disperse the crowd.

The World Health Organization said the death toll is rising most quickly in Liberia, which now accounts for at least 576 of the fatalities. At least 2,473 people have been sickened across West Africa, which is now more than in all the previous two-dozen Ebola outbreaks combined.

The U.N. health agency also warned of shortages of food, water and other essential supplies in West Africa’s population centers.

And if it’s bad in these capitals, it’s much worse inside West Point, a densely populated slum surrounded by floating sewage that occupies a half-mile (kilometer) long peninsula in Liberia’s seaside capital.

West Point suffers from government neglect even in the best of times, and mistrust of authorities is rampant. Open defecation is a major problem. Drinking water is carted in on wheelbarrows, and people depend on a local market for their food. Now many of the market’s traders are stuck inside, prices have doubled and “the community is in disarray,” slum resident Richard Kieh said.

“Why are you ill-treating people like this? How can we take this kind of government to be peaceful? It is not fair – We are human,” complained another resident, Mohamed Fahnbulleh.

Ebola is only spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of sick people experiencing symptoms. Those at greatest risk are doctors and nurses and people who handle the dead. Still, victims often suffer gruesome deaths, bleeding from the eyes, mouth and ears, and the fatality rate of about 50 percent has provoked widespread panic.

Tension has increased in Monrovia, and West Point has been a flash point. Days earlier, residents ransacked a screening center where people in contact with Ebola victims were being monitored. They dragged out sheets and mattresses covered with blood and feces, accusing the government of bringing sick people into their neighborhood. Dozens of potential carriers were taken elsewhere in the city.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf responded by imposing a nighttime curfew and ordering “quarantines” of West Point and Dolo Town, another densely populated slum outside the capital. She also ordered movie theaters, nightclubs and other gathering places shut, stopped ferry service to the peninsula and deployed a coast guard boat to patrol the surrounding waters.

“There will be no movements in and out of those areas,” Sirleaf said in a national address late Tuesday night. She said “additional sanctions” were necessary because her citizens failed to heed health warnings.

“We have been unable to control the spread due to continued denials, cultural burying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the government,” she said. “Fellow citizens, these measures are meant to save lives … May God bless us all and save the State.”

She didn’t say how long the blockades would last, or how people trapped inside would get food, water or other help meanwhile.

Police moved in hours later, sealing off roads the only roads in or out of West Point.

Angry crowds were massing, and became violent when a local government representative returned to her home in West Point to get her family out under an armed escort. Hundreds surrounded her house until security forces packed the family into a car, firing into the air and hustling them away.

Deputy Police Chief Abraham Kromah said forces later restored order. “Please remain law-abiding; throwing stones at police officers and security officers is not the best way out,” he said in a telephone interview.

While whole counties and districts in Sierra Leone and Liberia have been sealed off and internal travel restrictions have limited the movement of people in Guinea, the barricading of Liberia’s slums are a first for this outbreak.

The WHO warned Wednesday that already some areas were “beginning to experience supply shortages, including fuel, food, and basic supplies” as airlines and shipping companies curtail services to the affected countries.

“WHO is working with the U.N. World Food Program to ensure adequate food and supplies, but calls on companies to make business decisions based on scientific evidence with regard to the transmission of Ebola virus,” the health agency said Wednesday.

A closer look at Wednesday’s numbers shows that with 2,473 people sickened in four countries, the current outbreak is bigger than all previous Ebola outbreaks, which together total 2,387. As for deaths, the current outbreak’s toll is still 240 fewer than the total deaths from the previous two-dozen outbreaks, the agency’s data show.

The virus is spreading fastest in Liberia and Sierra Leone, but the U.N. health agency reported encouraging signs in Guinea that the outbreak is slowing, and there is hope that Nigeria has managed to contain the disease to about a dozen cases.

Nigeria’s health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said Tuesday that a fifth person had died of Ebola, but all of Nigeria’s reported cases have been people who had direct contact with a Liberian-American man who was already infected when he arrived in the country on an airliner.

Associated Press photographer Abbas Dulleh in Monrovia, Liberia, and writer Maram Mazen in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed to this report.

WHO: West Africa Ebola death toll rises to 1,350

KDWN

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — The World Health Organization says the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is now at least 1,350 people.

The latest figures Wednesday show that the deaths are mounting fastest in Liberia, which now accounts for at least 576 of the deaths.

The U.N. health agency also warned in its announcement that “countries are beginning to experience supply shortages, including fuel, food, and basic supplies.”

This comes after a number of airlines and shipping services have halted transport to the worst affected capitals of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

In a desperate bid to halt the disease’s spread, authorities in Liberia have quarantined off a huge slum that is home to 50,000 people. Protests erupted in West Point on Wednesday, where residents threw rocks at police.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Hundreds of residents of a seaside slum in Liberia’s capital clashed with security forces Wednesday to protest an armed blockade of the peninsula that is their neighborhood as part of the government’s desperate efforts to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Protests began in the morning when roads into and out of West Point were blocked by riot police and troops and a coast guard boat patrolled the waters offshore.

When the local government representative, who had not slept at home, returned to get her family out, hundreds of people surrounded her house until police and soldiers packed her and her family into a car and hustled them away. Security forces fired into the air to disperse the crowd, and residents threw stones or whatever was at hand at them. At least one person was injured.

Deputy Police Chief Abraham Kromah said later Wednesday that forces managed to restore order in the area. He said the police were investigating whether any shots had been fired.

Fear and tension have been building in Monrovia for days, and West Point has been one of the flash points. West Point residents raided an Ebola screening center over the weekend, accusing officials of bringing sick people from all over Monrovia into their neighborhood. The move to seal off the densely populated, impoverished peninsula shows that the government is struggling to contain a deadly outbreak that is spreading faster in Liberia than anywhere else.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered West Point sealed off and imposed a nationwide curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“We have been unable to control the spread” of Ebola, Sirleaf said in an address to the nation Tuesday night. She blamed the rising case toll on denial, defiance of authorities and cultural burial practices, in which bodies are handled. But many feel the government has not done enough to protect them from the spread of Ebola.

The Ebola outbreak, which according to the World Health Organization began in December, has killed at least 1,229 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

On Wednesday, riot police and soldiers created roadblocks out of piles of scrap wood and barbed wire to prevent anyone from entering or leaving West Point, which occupies a half-mile-long (kilometer-long) peninsula where the Mesurado River meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Few roads go into the area and a major road runs along the base of the point, serving as a barrier between the neighborhood and the rest of Monrovia. Ferries to the area have been halted.

At least 50,000 people live in West Point, one of the poorest and most densely populated neighborhoods of the capital. Sanitation is poor even in the best of times and defecation in the streets and beaches is a major problem. Mistrust of authorities is rampant in this poorly served area, where many people live without electricity or access to clean water.

The community is in “disarray” following the arrival of forces on Wednesday morning, West Point resident, Richard Kieh, told The Associated Press by phone.

“Prices of things have been doubled here,” he said.

The Ebola outbreak has already touched other parts of the capital, where dead bodies have lain in the streets for hours, sometimes days, even though residents asked that they be picked up by Health Ministry workers.

Liberia has the highest death toll, and its number of cases is rising the fastest. Sirleaf also ordered gathering places like movie theaters and night clubs shut and cordoned off Dolo Town, 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of the capital.

While whole counties and districts in Sierra Leone and Liberia have been sealed off and internal travel restrictions have limited the movement of people in Guinea, the sealing off of West Point is the first time such restrictions have been put in place in a capital city in this outbreak.

The current Ebola outbreak is currently the most severe in Liberia and Sierra Leone, but the U.N. health agency said that there were encouraging signs that the tide was beginning to turn in Guinea. There is also hope that Nigeria has managed to contain the disease to about a dozen cases.

Nigeria’s health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said Tuesday that a fifth person had died of the disease in that country. All of Nigeria’s reported cases so far have been people who had direct contact with a Liberian-American man who was already infected when he arrived in the country on an airliner.

Associated Press photographer Abbas Dulleh in Monrovia, Liberia, and writer Maram Mazen in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed to this report.

WHO: West Africa Ebola death toll rises to 1,350

KDWN

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — The World Health Organization says the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is now at least 1,350 people.

The latest figures Wednesday show that the deaths are mounting fastest in Liberia, which now accounts for at least 576 of the deaths.

The U.N. health agency also warned in its announcement that “countries are beginning to experience supply shortages, including fuel, food, and basic supplies.”

This comes after a number of airlines and shipping services have halted transport to the worst affected capitals of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

In a desperate bid to halt the disease’s spread, authorities in Liberia have quarantined off a huge slum that is home to 50,000 people. Protests erupted in West Point on Wednesday, where residents threw rocks at police.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Hundreds of residents of a seaside slum in Liberia’s capital clashed with security forces Wednesday to protest an armed blockade of the peninsula that is their neighborhood as part of the government’s desperate efforts to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Protests began in the morning when roads into and out of West Point were blocked by riot police and troops and a coast guard boat patrolled the waters offshore.

When the local government representative, who had not slept at home, returned to get her family out, hundreds of people surrounded her house until police and soldiers packed her and her family into a car and hustled them away. Security forces fired into the air to disperse the crowd, and residents threw stones or whatever was at hand at them. At least one person was injured.

Deputy Police Chief Abraham Kromah said later Wednesday that forces managed to restore order in the area. He said the police were investigating whether any shots had been fired.

Fear and tension have been building in Monrovia for days, and West Point has been one of the flash points. West Point residents raided an Ebola screening center over the weekend, accusing officials of bringing sick people from all over Monrovia into their neighborhood. The move to seal off the densely populated, impoverished peninsula shows that the government is struggling to contain a deadly outbreak that is spreading faster in Liberia than anywhere else.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered West Point sealed off and imposed a nationwide curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“We have been unable to control the spread” of Ebola, Sirleaf said in an address to the nation Tuesday night. She blamed the rising case toll on denial, defiance of authorities and cultural burial practices, in which bodies are handled. But many feel the government has not done enough to protect them from the spread of Ebola.

The Ebola outbreak, which according to the World Health Organization began in December, has killed at least 1,229 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

On Wednesday, riot police and soldiers created roadblocks out of piles of scrap wood and barbed wire to prevent anyone from entering or leaving West Point, which occupies a half-mile-long (kilometer-long) peninsula where the Mesurado River meets the Atlantic Ocean.

Few roads go into the area and a major road runs along the base of the point, serving as a barrier between the neighborhood and the rest of Monrovia. Ferries to the area have been halted.

At least 50,000 people live in West Point, one of the poorest and most densely populated neighborhoods of the capital. Sanitation is poor even in the best of times and defecation in the streets and beaches is a major problem. Mistrust of authorities is rampant in this poorly served area, where many people live without electricity or access to clean water.

The community is in “disarray” following the arrival of forces on Wednesday morning, West Point resident, Richard Kieh, told The Associated Press by phone.

“Prices of things have been doubled here,” he said.

The Ebola outbreak has already touched other parts of the capital, where dead bodies have lain in the streets for hours, sometimes days, even though residents asked that they be picked up by Health Ministry workers.

Liberia has the highest death toll, and its number of cases is rising the fastest. Sirleaf also ordered gathering places like movie theaters and night clubs shut and cordoned off Dolo Town, 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of the capital.

While whole counties and districts in Sierra Leone and Liberia have been sealed off and internal travel restrictions have limited the movement of people in Guinea, the sealing off of West Point is the first time such restrictions have been put in place in a capital city in this outbreak.

The current Ebola outbreak is currently the most severe in Liberia and Sierra Leone, but the U.N. health agency said that there were encouraging signs that the tide was beginning to turn in Guinea. There is also hope that Nigeria has managed to contain the disease to about a dozen cases.

Nigeria’s health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said Tuesday that a fifth person had died of the disease in that country. All of Nigeria’s reported cases so far have been people who had direct contact with a Liberian-American man who was already infected when he arrived in the country on an airliner.

Associated Press photographer Abbas Dulleh in Monrovia, Liberia, and writer Maram Mazen in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed to this report.