Hundreds of residents in the northern Liberian city of Ganta are fleeing their homes to nearby towns and villages over fears that their city might be quarantined over the increased number of Ebola deaths within its limits.
"This Ebola thing is scaring us because people are just dying around us, and we just heard that the government has quarantined two communities in Margibi and West Point, so maybe they will come here too," Junior Paye, a Ganta resident, told Anadolu Agency as he scrambled to collect his family’s belongings before fleeing the city.
Paye was referring to a decision by the government to quarantine West Point and Dolo Town as a bid to contain the Ebola outbreak that killed hundreds in the country.
On Wednesday, the residents of the two communities woke up just after the president ordered the quarantine only to find their community barricaded with soldiers and police officers preventing people from leaving or entering the two areas.
The government has already called on citizens to remain in their communities and counties and refrain from relocating to help contain the spread of the virus, but many Ganta residents had already made up their minds to leave as reports say that the Nimba County, which encompasses the city, is the third in terms of the number of new Ebola deaths.
Hundreds of the city’s residents were seen with their belongings on local transport cars and motorbikes heading to nearby towns and villages with their families.
"I do not want what happened to the people of West point and Dolo Town to happen to me," Paye told AA.
The exodus was also coupled with a rush of purchase in the city as local residents scrambled to buy rice and other foodstuff in quantities to take along with them.
"For me I am buying rice because there are no commercial activities where I am going to, so I am buying food for my children to eat," Koi Dolo, a mother of three, told AA.
Local authorities were swift to act with Director of Public Health Prevention John Sumo saying that the county health authorities has warned people against hosting visiting relatives in their homes and communities as the relocation of people is one of the means by which the diseases is being spread.
"What I can say is that the County Health Team has been creating awareness, telling the people not to accept strangers and distant relatives visiting their homes because they do not know their status," Sumo told AA.
A lawmaker from the county, meanwhile, told AA that due to the alarming number of deaths, the county’s administration has approved the sum of $100,000 as a contribution to the fight against Ebola in the county.
The funds, Larry Younquoi said, will be used to purchase gasoline for the transporting of patients and burial teams as well as additional protective equipment and other medical supplies needed for the treatment center in the county.
The move by the local authorities, the lawmaker added, came as a quick response to the alarming number of daily deaths in the county.
"We as lawmakers are all concerned and could not wait [for government action], because every day there is no less than 3-5 deaths reported," Younquoi said.
In recent months, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has claimed more than one thousand lives in West Africa.
Liberia’s Ministry of Health put probable and cumulative deaths caused by the virus at 587 with the cases of the disease totaling 1,024.
The tropical fever, which first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, can be transmitted to humans from wild animals.
It also reportedly spreads through contact with the body fluids of infected persons or of those who have died of the disease.