Liberians clash with government health workers over Ebola fears, as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declares a state of emergency and imposes quarantines on badly affected communities.

In a soggy field in Johnsonville, a township just outside of the Liberian capital Monrovia, Joseph Bayogar holds his hand to his chin and shakes his head as he walks through what is now a messy burial site. “We did not have Ebola in our area,” the local resident says. “Now the government has put our lives in danger by doing this.”

He was visiting the site on Aug. 4, just two days after health workers brought some 37 bodies – victims of the deadly Ebola outbreak that’s now killed almost 1,000 in west Africa – to the field on orders from the Ministry of Health. The Assistant Minister of Health, Tolbert Nyenswah, tells TIME that the government had purchased the land from the township administration in order to use the area as a burial site.

But as the health workers buried the bodies, local residents say they chased them away, fearful of the spread of the highly contagious disease. The health workers abandoned the rest of the corpses, dumping them in shallow holes in a swampy area, say locals. The Ministry of Health denies that the bodies were dumped.

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