In the sprawling oceanfront West Point neighbourhood of Monrovia, at
least four people were injured in clashes with security forces,
witnesses said. It was unclear whether anyone was wounded by the
gunfire, though a Reuters photographer saw a young boy with his leg
largely severed just above the ankle.
Liberian authorities introduced a nationwide curfew on Tuesday and
put the West Point neighbourhood under quarantine to curb the spread
of the disease.
"The soldiers are using live rounds," said army spokesman Dessaline
Allison, adding: "The soldiers applied the rules of engagement. They
did not fire on peaceful citizens. There will be medical reports if
(an injury) was from bullet wounds."
The World Health Organization said that the countries hit by the
worst ever outbreak of the deadly virus were beginning to suffer
shortages of fuel, food and basic supplies after shipping companies
and airlines suspended services to the region.
The epidemic of the hemorrhagic fever, which can kill up to 90
percent of those it infects, is ravaging the three small West
African states of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It also has a
toehold in Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy and most populous
Liberia - where the death toll is rising fastest - said its Ministry
of Health warehouse had run out of rubber boots and bottles of hand
sanitiser, essential for preventing the spread of the disease.
Still struggling to recover from a devastating 1989-2003 civil war,
Liberia recorded 95 deaths in the two days to Aug. 18, the World
Health Organization said. Since it was discovered in remote
southeastern Guinea in March, the overall death toll from the
outbreak has reached 1,350 from a total of 2,473 cases.
WEST POINT CLASHES
Witnesses said the clashes in West Point started after security
forces early on Wednesday blocked roads to the neighbourhood with
tables, chairs and barbed wire. Security forces also came in to
escort the local commissioner out of the neighbourhood, they said.
Attempts to isolate the worst affected areas of the country and
neighbouring Sierra Leone have raised fears of unrest in one of the
world's poorest regions should communities start to run low on food
and medical supplies.
"I don't have any food and we're scared," said Alpha Barry, a
resident of West Point who said he came from Guinea and has four
children under age 13.
In an effort to calm tensions, authorities on Wednesday started
delivering tonnes of rice, oil and essential foodstuffs to West
Point, residents and a government official said.
The World Food Programme has begun emergency food shipments to
quarantined zones where a million people may be at risk of
shortages. The WHO has appealed to companies and international
organisations to continue providing supplies and services to
countries at risk, saying there was a low risk of contagion.
FEAR FACTOR HIGH
The Ebola outbreak is putting off thousands of tourists who had
planned trips to Africa this year, especially Asians, including to
destinations thousands of miles from the nearest infected community
such as Kenya and South Africa.
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Containing the outbreak requires large numbers of specialist staff
to map the epidemic, track people who have had contact with
sufferers, and to work in isolation and treatment centres.
The WHO has pledged to massively scale up the international
response, but so far there has been only a trickle of additional
foreign healthcare workers to affected nations.
"The fear factor is high," Francis Kasolo, the coordinator of a WHO
sub-regional Ebola outbreak coordination centre told the Thomson
Reuters Foundation. "We try and try. It is an ongoing process. The
offer is not large. And they have to be the right profile of
West Point residents said they were given no warning of the
blockade, which prevented them from getting to work or buying food.
Many people in impoverished parts of Monrovia buy food to eat each
day rather than stocking it.
Residents also said the closure immediately caused prices of basic
goods, including drinking water sold in sachets, to soar.
"We just saw it (the blockade) this morning. We came out and we
couldn't go anywhere. I haven't heard from anybody in authority what
happened," Barry, 45, who works as a money changer, told Reuters.
The task authorities face is made harder by misinformation. One West
Point resident told Reuters the government had sealed off the
neighbourhood in order to bring the disease in.
A crowd at West Point looted a temporary holding centre for
suspected Ebola cases at the weekend, 17 of whom fled. All 17 were
now accounted for and being treated, and the government has
abandoned plans for the centre due to fierce resistance.
Meanwhile, Democratic Republic of Congo has sent its health minister
and a team of experts to the remote Equateur province after several
people died there from a disease with Ebola-like symptoms, a local
official and a professor said.
It was not immediately clear if there was any connection with Ebola.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn and Emma Farge in Dakar,
Alphonso Toweh in Washington, writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; editing
by Daniel Flynn, G Crosse and Robin Pomeroy)
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