22 killed in Sri Lanka as massive mound of garbage collapses

Posted April 20, 2017

The 300-foot-high (90-metre) dump in the Meethotamulla area on the border of the commercial heart of Colombo collapsed after flames engulfed it late on Friday, the nation's new year's day, burying many homes. The military said that 1,000 security personnel, including police and members of several special task forces, had been deployed for the rescue operation. Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the rescue efforts, said 78 houses were destroyed and more than 150 were damaged.

RMS Bandara, a top building research official, explained the incidents leading to the mishap.

Rickshaw driver Dilip Mirmal, whose neighbours' homes were submerged, said the residents "did not choose to live next to a dump". The government had planned to remove it soon under an infrastructure plan.

Schools and others facilities will be moved as well.

"Anyway, no more garbage will be dumped at this site", he said. Ironically, the government had signed agreements a few weeks ago to convert the waste into energy, he said in a post on Facebook.

Police have launched a probe to ascertain whether the collapse was a natural calamity or an act of sabotage.

From time to time, people have barricaded roads, set fire to things, spoken to politicians, conducted sit-down protests.

President Maithripala Sirisenahas already instructed officials to provide maximum relief to the people who were affected due to the disaster.

"There is a land of 21 acres here covered with garbage piled over the years".

The government decided there will be no more dumping of garbage at Meethotamulla following the tragedy.

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

Residents of the area, mostly living in shanties, have been demanding the removal of the dump saying it was causing health issues.

The authorities, however, claim that they had given enough warning to the slum dwellers to relocate themselves.

Mr De Silva said residents had been advised to leave because of the risk of landslides.

Disaster Management Center spokesman Pradeep Kodippili said the number was reduced after adjusting names that had been entered on the list of dead as well as missing.

Police said the true scale of the damage remained unclear.

By Monday morning, authorities had pulled 29 bodies from beneath the debris, according to lawyer Nuwan Bopage, who has worked with local residents to protest against the dump.