Liberian officials fear Ebola could soon spread through the country's largest slum after masked residents raided a quarantine center for patients and stole items which may have been infected with the horrific disease.
The rampages took place at West Point slum late Saturday and was led by residents angry that patients were brought to the holding center from other parts of Monrovia, Tolbert Nyenswah, assistant health minister, said Sunday.
"They broke down the doors and looted the place. The patients all fled," said Rebecca Wesseh, who witnessed the attack and whose report was confirmed by residents and the head of Health Workers Association of Liberian, George Williams.
At the time of the raid, up to 30 patients were staying at the center and many of them fled as the masked men broke in, said Nyenswah. Authorities hope to locate the patients and transfer them to the Ebola center at Monrovia's largest hospital, he said.
On Saturday, a crowd of several hundred local residents in the slum of the capitol chanted 'No Ebola in West Point' and drove away a burial team and their police escort that had come to collect the bodies of Ebola victims.
Citizens of West Point also went on a "looting spree," stealing items and supplies from the clinic said a senior police official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the press. Items stolen include medical equipment and mattresses and sheets that had bloodstains, he said, which were likely infected as Ebola is spread through bodily fluids including blood, vomit, feces and sweat.
"All between the houses you could see people fleeing with items looted from the patients," the official said, adding that he now feared "the whole of West Point will be infected."
This event has worried Liberian officials, who are currently struggling to control the outbreak that has infected large parts of Liberia, Monrovia and Guinea.
As estimated 50,000 people, live in West Point, according to a 2012 survey. Thus far, West Point has not been placed under quarantine, reported Nyenswah.
This is not the first time residents have attempted to prevent health care workers from trying to contain the horrific disease.
There have been reports of locals throwing stones at aid workers, blocking aid convoys and forcibly removing patients from clinics, as many blame foreigners for bringing the disease, saying it had never been there before they arrived.
So far, the Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 1,100 people in West Africa could last another six months, the Doctors Without Borders charity group said Friday. New figures released by the World Health Organization showed that Liberia has recorded more Ebola deaths - 413 - than any of the other affected countries.