Ebola Crisis: Confusion as Patients Vanish in Liberia

08/17/2014
Map of Liberia

There are conflicting reports over the fate of 17 suspected Ebola patients who vanished after a quarantine centre in the Liberian capital was looted.

An angry mob attacked the centre in Monrovia's densely populated West Point township on Saturday evening.

A senior health official said all of the patients had been moved to another medical facility.

But a reporter told the BBC that 17 had escaped while 10 others were taken away by their families.

More than 400 people are known to have died from the virus in Liberia, out of a total of 1,145 deaths recorded in West Africa by the World Health Organization this year.

Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said protesters had been unhappy that patients were being brought in from other parts of the capital.

Other reports suggested the protesters had believed Ebola was a hoax and wanted to force the quarantine centre to close.

The attack at the Monrovia centre is seen as a major setback in the struggle to halt the outbreak, says the BBC's Will Ross, reporting from Lagos.

Health experts say that the key to ending the Ebola outbreak is to stop it spreading in Liberia, where ignorance about the virus is high and many people are reluctant to cooperate with medical staff.

‘All gone’

Mr Nyenswah said after the attack that 29 patients at the centre were being relocated and readmitted to an Ebola treatment centre located in the facility of the country's John F Kennedy Memorial Medical Center.

However, Jina Moore, a journalist for Buzzfeed who is in Monrovia, told the BBC that 10 people had been freed by their relatives on Friday night and 17 had escaped during the looting the next day.

Rebecca Wesseh, who witnessed the attack, told the AFP news agency: “They broke down the door and looted the place. The patients have all gone.”

The full article continues at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-28827091 on the BBC website.