Authorities in Sierra Leone imposed a curfew in the eastern town of Koidu on Tuesday after a dispute between youth and police over a suspected case of Ebola degenerated into gunfire and rioting, officials said.
A local civil society leader said he had seen at least two bodies with gunshot wounds. The head of the local police unit said youth had fired at officers with shotguns but denied anyone had been shot dead.
The clashes highlight tensions in Sierra Leone over the government’s attempt to bring the worst Ebola outbreak on record under control. Sierra Leone has recorded 1,200 deaths from just over 3,400 cases of Ebola, according the latest U.N. data.
David Koroma, the police unit commander in Koidu, said rioting began when a former youth leader refused health authorities permission to take her 90-year old grandmother for an Ebola test.
Dr Manso Dumbuya, the district medical officer, said he had been forced to abandon the hospital because of the rioting. The diamond-rich district of Kono, which includes the town of Koidu, does not have an Ebola treatment centre and cases are taken to neighbouring Kenema or Kailahun.
With cases of Ebola arriving in the West and the prospect of tens of thousands more in West Africa, the global effort to defeat Ebola is picking up pace.
But the lack of trust between communities and governments in West Africa has complicated efforts to contain a disease, for which there is no known cure. Ebola has now killed over 4,500 people this year, mainly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.