Six US military planes arrived in the Ebola hot zone on Thursday with more US Marines, as West Africa’s leaders pleaded for the world’s help in dealing with a crisis that one called “a tragedy unforeseen in modern times.”
“Our people are dying,” Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma said by videoconference at a World Bank meeting in Washington.
He said other countries are not responding fast enough, while children are orphaned and infected doctors and nurses are lost to the disease.
Guinean President Alpha Conde said the region’s countries are in “a very fragile situation.”
Ebola is “an international threat and deserves an international response,” he said, speaking through a translator as he sought money, medicine and equipment and training for healthcare workers.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden said he was reminded of the start of the AIDS epidemic.
“We have to work now so this is not the next AIDS,” Frieden said.
The fleet of planes that landed outside Monrovia consisted of four MV-22 Ospreys and two KC-130s. The 100 additional marines bring to just over 300 the total number of US troops in the country, said Major General Darryl Williams, the commander leading the US response.
Williams joined US Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac at the airport to greet the aircraft.
As vehicles unloaded boxes of equipment wrapped in green-and-black cloth, the marines formed a line on the tarmac and had their temperatures checked by Liberian health workers.
Meanwhile, British authorities said they would introduce “enhanced” screening of travelers for Ebola at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Eurostar rail terminals.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said passengers arriving from West Africa would be questioned about their travels and contacts. Some people could be given a medical assessment and advice on what to do if they develop symptoms.
Also on Thursday, Liberian police used batons and rattan whips to disperse 100 protesters outside the Liberian National Assembly, where lawmakers were debating granting Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf more powers beyond those contained in a state of emergency declared in August. Her handling of the crisis has been criticized as heavy-handed and ineffective.
Liberian state radio announced that the nation’s senate elections scheduled for next week would be postponed. No new date was given.
The outbreak has killed more than 3,800 people, according to the latest WHO figures. The vast majority of those deaths have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Elsewhere, University of Maryland researchers announced that the first study of a possible Ebola vaccine in Africa was under way. Scientists say three healthcare workers in Mali received the experimental shots developed by the US government.
Mali has not had any cases of Ebola, but it borders the outbreak zone. Researchers say early safety tests should be done in Ebola-free countries to avoid complicating factors. If the vaccine appears to be safe, larger trials could be done in the outbreak zone early next year.
The US military is working to build medical centers in Liberia and might send up to 4,000 soldiers to help with the Ebola crisis. Medical workers and beds for Ebola patients are sorely lacking.
British Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon said his country would provide more than 750 troops to help build treatment centers and an Ebola “training academy” in Sierra Leone. Army medics and helicopters will provide direct support. Britain will also contribute an aviation support ship.
British troops are expected to arrive next week in Sierra Leone, where they are to join military engineers and planners who have been there for nearly a month helping to construct medical centers.
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