22 killed in Sri Lanka as massive mound of garbage collapses

Sri Lankan military officers work in a rescue mission at the site of a garbage dump collapse in Meetotamulla, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 16, 2017. A 10-member team of geologists, officials from mining and excavation divisions, have been sent to the spot.

The police said they were investigating whether the landslide was natural or man-made.

Hundreds of Sri Lanka Army troops together with Navy, Air Force, Police, STF and Disaster Management Centre personnel are continuing rescue and relief operations in full swing at Meethotamulla where a 300-foot garbage mountain collapsed burying dozens of people and homes on Friday. Twenty-three people, including four children, were killed and 11 others injured in the incident, officials said, adding that six persons were still missing.

The report said there are at least seven people missing in the cities of Ajabshir and Azarshahr. On Monday, an operation to recover the missing was still ongoing with hopes of finding survivors fading, the BBC reports.

A Sri Lankan boy who survived the garbage dump collapse surveys the damage.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Saturday that the government would soon remove the garbage dump from the area. "We had all plans in place to relocate the garbage dump at Meetotamulla".

'Houses behind us were coming towards us, they were flying at us.

Guttila Silva, a former mayor and local politician, said residents were angry that the Colombo Municipality had continued to dump hundreds of tons of garbage at the dump daily despite safety concerns. "But they brought the garbage in and made this place disgusting", said rickshaw driver Dilip Mirmal, 34, whose home was spared while those surrounding were completely subsumed, killing 23 of his neighbors.

The tragedy occurred on Friday evening as people were celebrating the local new year.

Police said the true scale of the damage remained unclear.

Attorney-at-law Nuwan Bopage of civil society group representing the interests of Meethotamulla residents said that there had been a series of protests beginning January 4, 2012 demanding an immediate halt to garbage dumping at Meethotamulla.

About 800 tons of solid waste is added per day to the open dump.

  • Leroy Wright