Clashes have broken out on the streets of Liberia’s capital Monrovia, as the West Point shantytown was sealed off in an attempt to curb the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
As around 50,000 people were effectively put into quarantine, a government minister arrived in the shanty town to remove members of her family, prompting fury from the rest of the inhabitants.
A teenage boy was seriously hurt as he tried to climb over a barbed wire fence in order to escape from the gunfire and tear gas. At least three others were also injured.
Isaac Momolu, a trader who now finds himself in quarantine, said the government had been heavy-handed.
“We expect the government to act with awareness, that’s what we expected. But at 4.00 am this morning they deployed armed police and the Liberian army to beat people, and that’s not the way.”
Liberia is still struggling to recover from the civil war which raged from 1989 to 2003 and there are fears that more violence may break out if quarantined people start to run out of food and other essentials.
Liberia’s Defence Minister Brownie Samukai denied that the army had orders to shoot: “I want to make it very clear that the armed forces of Liberia have not been issued any orders to shoot or to kill anybody out there at this point in time.”
After the clashes, the streets remained deserted, and the market empty.
The Ebola virus has already killed 1,350 people in West Africa out of a total of 2,473 known cases.