Hundreds evacuated after deadly Sri Lanka dump collapse

LANDSLIDE. Sri Lankan residents survey damaged homes at the site of a collapsed garbage dump in Colombo on April 16, 2017. Photo by Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP

Disaster management officials say 1,700 people have been moved to temporary shelters in state schools while the government looked for alternative accommodation

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (Apr. 17, 2017) — Sri Lanka has moved over 400 families to temporary shelters after tons of rotting garbage collapsed onto a slum on Friday, April 14, killing at least 28 people.

Some 145 homes were destroyed when the 300-foot (90-metre) rubbish mountain came crashing down on Friday afternoon at Kolonnawa on the northeastern edge of Colombo. Police say many more buildings were damaged and could collapse at any time.

Hundreds of soldiers have kept up the search for survivors amid reports that 7 people from 4 families were still missing after the disaster, which followed heavy rain the previous day and a fire hours earlier.

It came as the country celebrated the traditional new year and followed a warning to parliament that the 23 million tons of rotting garbage posed a serious health hazard.

“We are keeping up the search but we are not very hopeful of finding anyone alive in these conditions,” military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne told AFP on Monday.

The discovery of a man’s body and a dismembered limb during the search Monday had pushed the death toll to 28, Seneviratne added.

Disaster management officials said 1,700 people had been moved to temporary shelters in state schools while the government looked for alternative accommodation.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was visiting Japan at the time, said arrangements had been made to clear away the garbage dump, but it came crashing down before work could begin.

About 800 tons of solid waste from the capital is added to the open dump every day. Efforts are under way to generate electricity using the waste.

Police have stepped up security in the area following reports of looting and said they arrested 23 men suspected of stealing victims’ belongings.

Wickremesinghe said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered help with the recovery effort and a technical team would be sent to Sri Lanka to evaluate the situation.

  by Agence France-Presse |