At least 46 people have lost their lives and several dozen others gone missing in Ethiopia after a landslide swept through a colossal garbage dump, officials say.
The incident occurred on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, at the Koshe Garbage Landfill on Saturday night, when the geological phenomenon buried 30 makeshift homes and concrete buildings, the city’s Mayor Diriba Kuma said.
The mayor added that some 37 people had been rescued from the rubble and were receiving medical attention while rescue operation, with the help of several excavators, was continuing for the missing people. An estimated number of 150 people were at the site when the landslide happened.
Meanwhile, Dagmawit Moges, head of the city communications bureau, said they “expect the number of victims to increase because the landslide covered a relatively large area.”
Many of these people were waste-pickers scavenging garbage at the 50-year-old landfill for a living, but others were poor folk, who had no choice but to rent low-cost rickety homes, largely made of mud and sticks, located at the dumping ground.
In 2010, city officials warned that the landfill was being shut down, arguing that it was running out of room and was advancing towards the nearby residential areas and schools. They then started building a new garbage landfill complex in a nearby volatile rural region.
For some time, dumping at Koshe had stopped, but in recent months it was resumed after farmers from the rural region violently protested at dumping garbage in the new site and blocked the trash trucks.
“In the long run, we will conduct a resettling program to relocate people, who live in and around the landfill,” Kuma added.
According to city officials, most of the 300,000 tons of waste collected annually from Addis Ababa make its way to Koshe, where some 500 waste-pickers search for edible and reusable items on a daily basis in the garbage, which comes from the capital’s four million residents.
By Africafrique and agencies