Hundreds moved after deadly Sri Lanka dump collapse

2017-04-17 20:09
A Sri Lankan soldier walks past damage houses after a mountain of garbage collapsed in Meetotamulla on the outskirts of Colombo. (Eranga Jayawardena, AP)

A Sri Lankan soldier walks past damage houses after a mountain of garbage collapsed in Meetotamulla on the outskirts of Colombo. (Eranga Jayawardena, AP)

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Colombo - Sri Lanka has moved over 400 families to temporary shelters after tons of rotting garbage collapsed onto a slum killing at least 29 people.

Some 145 homes were destroyed when the 90m 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.

The search for survivors was stopped at nightfall on Monday but will resume at first light on Tuesday, said military spokesperson Roshan Seneviratne.

Temporary shelters

Seven people reported missing by their families since Friday's landslide have still not been located, he added.

The collapse 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.

The death toll rose to 29 after a man injured in the landslide died in hospital on Monday, Seneviratne said.

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

Disaster management minister Anura Yapa said the loss of life could have been avoided had local residents acted on warnings to move issued as recently as a fortnight ago.

"Some had even been offered money to rent homes and move out. Some took it, but most didn't," Yapa told reporters.

He said the government would launch a "military-type" operation to dispose of garbage in the capital and neighbouring areas.

Clear the garbage

However, activist group "Decent Lanka 2015" said ad hoc compensation and relocation was not the answer to a festering problem.

"The waste dump exposes all political parties and alliances in both provincial and central government as clueless, politically illiterate and insensitive to sensitive issues affecting the people," the group said.

It called for more talks with residents before rushing any relocation.

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


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