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Ethiopia garbage dump landslide toll soars to 65

PTI Addis Ababa | Updated on January 13, 2018 Published on March 14, 2017
Excavators work after a landslide at a garbage dump on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in this still image taken from a video taken on March 12, 2017.

Excavators work after a landslide at a garbage dump on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in this still image taken from a video taken on March 12, 2017.   -  Reuters

The disaster on Saturday at the dump flattened dozens of homes of people living in the Koshe dump

At least 65 people were killed in a giant landslide at Ethiopia’s largest rubbish dump this weekend, officials said today, in a tragedy that saw entire families including children buried alive.

“The rescue operation is still ongoing, security personnel and rescuers are trying their level best” to locate any possible survivors, while searching for the dead, Communication Minister Negeri Lencho said.

Police and firefighters combing a “vast area” at the dump outside Addis Ababa found bodies throughout the day, Lencho told AFP.

The disaster on Saturday at the dump flattened dozens of homes of people living in the Koshe dump when part of the largest pile of rubbish collapsed. “The number of dead has reached 65,” said Dagmawit Moges, head of the city communications bureau.

Many of the victims were squatters who scavenged for a living in the 30-hectare (74-acre) dump. “Those at the top (of the dump) were taken by this pile, because it split and people could not make (their) way out of this debris,” Lencho said, adding that most of the dead recovered are women and children.

The landfill is the country’s largest and home to perhaps hundreds of people who collected recyclables that were trucked in from neighbourhoods around the city of around four million.

The government tried last year to close the dump and shift it to a new location, but opposition from residents at the new site scuttled the plan.

Residents who spoke to AFP blamed a biogas plant being constructed on top of the rubbish for causing the collapse. They said work by bulldozers to flatten the area around the plant contributed to the collapse.

Lencho said the cause was still being investigated, but denied that the plant’s construction had anything to do with the collapse. He blamed the squatters for digging into the hillside, destabilising it and causing it to fall. All the shacks built on the landfill would be demolished and the residents resettled elsewhere, he said.

But Amnesty International said the government was “fully responsible” for the disaster. “It was aware that the landfill was full to capacity but continued to use it regardless.

It also let hundreds of people continue to live in close proximity to it,” the group’s Muthoni Wanyeki said in a statement. “These people, including many women and children, had no option but to live and work in such a hazardous environment because of the government’s failure to protect their right to adequate housing, and decent work.”

Published on March 14, 2017
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