Residents flee during clashes in the West Point quarantined
neighbourhood of Liberia's capital Monrovia. REUTERS/James
Police in the Liberian capital Monrovia fired live rounds
and teargas to disperse a stone-throwing crowd trying to break
an Ebola quarantine imposed on their neighbourhood, as the
death toll from the epidemic in West Africa hit 1350.
In the sprawling ocean-front 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 gunfire, though a Reuters photographer
saw a young boy with his leg largely severed just above the
"The soldiers are using live rounds," said army spokesman
Dessaline Allison. "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
The World Health Organization said that 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
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, and
also has a toehold in Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy.
Liberia - where the death toll is rising fastest - said its
Ministry of Health warehouse had run out of rubber boots and
hand sanitiser bottles, 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.
Liberian authorities introduced a nationwide curfew on
Tuesday and put the teeming West Point neighbourhood under
quarantine to curb the spread of the disease.
Witnesses said clashes started after security forces blocked
roads to West Point early on Wednesday with tables, chairs
and barbed wire. Security forces 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 had
four children under 13.
The World Food Programme has begun emergency food deliveries
to quarantined zones where 1 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.
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
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 person."
In 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 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
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.
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