MONROVA, Liberia – Riot police raced to quell a demonstration blocking Liberia’s busiest highway Saturday as an angry crowd protested the government’s delays in collecting the bodies of Ebola victims.
In Guinea, where the deadly Ebola outbreak emerged in March, health officials announced Saturday that the country was closing its land borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone – two of the countries where the killer virus has now spread and where deaths are mounting.
The World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak an international health emergency Friday.
The growing unease in Liberia, where nearly 300 people have died from the gruesome disease, raises the specter of social unrest.
The Ebola virus spreads through the bodily fluids of its victims and many in West Africa have fallen ill after touching or handling corpses.
Liberia’s government has ordered that all Ebola victims be cremated amid community opposition to neighborhood burials for fear of further contamination.
Information Minister Lewis Brown sounded a warning on state radio Saturday.
Security people are on their way to put things under control, Brown said, directing his comments to protesters. We don’t want people taking the law into their own hands.
The latest Ebola outbreak is the largest ever recorded for the disease and so far has killed at least 961 people, according to figures released Friday by the U.N. health agency. The situation is particularly dire in Liberia, where the Doctors Without Borders charity group has described the conditions as catastrophic. There are reports of dead bodies lying in streets and houses, said Lindis Hurum, the group’s emergency coordinator in Liberia.
At least 40 health workers in Liberia have contracted Ebola in recent weeks, Hurum said.