A freak accident in central Sierra Leone left multiple Ebola patients in critical condition and countless more exposed to the virus as an ambulance heading toward a hospital “capsized” over a bridge in tiny Ngumahun Village.
Reports of the incident are sparse, but the Awareness Times, the nation’s largest publication, has reported that eight patients were onboard the ambulance when it either fell or was driven off the bridge–among them five women, a 12-year-old boy, and two men. The women are described as being in “very critical condition” as a result of the crash, while the men, the newspaper reports, are in worse condition due to the virus. “Others were reported to have started vomiting, urinating and discharging other body fluids at the scene, exposing them to the Ebola Virus.”
The Awareness Times notes the ambulance itself did not have a registration number, and the identity of the driver is unknown. It is not yet clear whether the ambulance fell or was driven off the bridge–or what caused the accident. The ambulance had left Makeni Government Hospital–located in the center of the country, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the capital, Freetown–on its way to Kailahun, a city on the eastern border of Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone’s Independent Observer, which described the bus’s fall as more of a “somersault” than a “capsizing,” also reported that the Ebola patients were eventually taken to Kailahun after the accident, and that two ambulances were sent to clean up the scene, where the patients had discharged bodily fluids. That operation is being led by Dr. Alhaji Saynie Turay, district medical officer in the city of Bo, who has dealt with other Ebola-triggered crises. In July, Dr. Turay helped find and return to authorities five escaped Ebola patients.
There is little information on the scene of the accident, Ngumahun Village. It is a village on the road between the cities of Bo and Kenema, and has previously been home to individuals suspected of cannibalistic behavior.
Sierra Leone is one of the hardest-hit nations in this current Ebola outbreak, at one point placing into quarantine up to two million people cut off from the rest of the country. Its medical infrastructure is so weak that local media accused the government of losing track of more than 1,000 Ebola patients after the total number of cases minus the total number of dead and recovered did not match. (Some argued that this discrepancy was due to many dying in their homes, where authorities were unable to reach them.)
On Friday, UK authorities announced that a British Navy ship was on its way to Sierra Leone to dispatch military personnel in the hopes of aiding in the construction of medical facilities for Ebola patients.