March 6, 2015 / 2:22 PM / 4 years ago

Missing sprinter from Sierra Leone sleeping rough in London

LONDON (Reuters) - A sprinter from Sierra Leone, who disappeared after competing in last year’s Commonwealth Games, has been sleeping rough in London, afraid to return home because of the Ebola virus, the Guardian reported on Friday.

Jimmy Thoronka raced in the 4x100 meters relay in Glasgow but disappeared at the end of the competition in August.

He failed to return to Sierra Leone after discovering that several members of his family had been killed by the deadly virus.

“I was hoping to win a medal for my country. But during the Games I got the terrible news that my uncle had died, probably from Ebola,” he was quoted as saying.

“I couldn’t stop crying. It was difficult to continue with competing but I tried to carry on...

“I wanted to go to London for a while after the Games but my bag with my money and passport in it was stolen at Glasgow station.

“I was scared to go to the police in case they arrested me and put me in a cell so I begged someone at the station to pay my fare to London and they agreed to do that.”

While watching an African TV channel, Thoronka discovered that his mother had also died of Ebola and later found out that his entire immediate family had been killed by the virus.

He now sleeps in parks and on night buses while begging for money to buy food.

“We have a cold season in Sierra Leone but it is not cold like England,” he said.

“Some days I don’t think I’m going to make it and just feel like killing myself.

“My dream is to become one of the best sprinters in the world but I don’t see how that can happen now...

“I’m very frightened of what will happen to me. Life here is very bad for me but if I return to Sierra Leone I don’t think I will make it.”

Ebola has killed nearly 10,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea during a year-long epidemic.

The virus is still widespread in Sierra Leone, which recorded 81 new cases in the week to March 1, including 26 in the capital Freetown.

Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Ed Osmond

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