FREETOWN Police in Sierra Leone have called in the army and fire brigade to try to take back control of a police station which has been overrun by hundreds of venomous snakes.
Snake charmers have tried in vain to lure the beasts, mostly cobras and vipers, out of Gerihun police station in the southern district of Bo. Attempts to smoke them out also failed.
Officers and residents wanting to report crimes have grown too afraid to come to the building.
"Even during work time when statements are being taken, these snakes can come out in dozens. Inhabitants have found it difficult to report cases to the police," station spokesman Brima Kota said.
Soldiers and fire fighters had been dispatched from the capital Freetown and would try to flood out the snakes, believed to number as many as 400, he said.
Wild animals have regularly had run-ins with villagers in remote, thickly forested parts of Sierra Leone, particularly in settlements where humans have only recently returned after fleeing the country's 10-year civil war.
Paramilitary police were drafted in to protect villagers in Bo from wild bush cows after a farmer was gored to death a few years ago, while rampaging elephants killed eight people and chased 600 from their homes in the east not long before that.
(Reporting by Christo Johnson; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Giles Elgood)