A 300-foot rubbish dump in Colombo collapsed on Friday, killing at least 19 people and trapping 145 houses underneath it, AFP reported on Sunday. Emergency workers pulled out 19 bodies but had to suspend their search on Saturday night. The operation resumed again on Sunday.
The incident took place in Kolonnawa, on the northeastern edge of the capital, the agency reported. The rubbish heap had collapsed after heavy rain and a fire on Friday night.
“We remain on standby, some people who were pulled out of wrecked homes were brought in overnight,” a spokesperson for the National Hospital of Sri Lanka told AFP. “The search operations are on, so we are expecting more victims to be brought in,” she added.
Military spokesperson Brigadier Roshan Seneviratne said troops were still looking for survivors, but feared that chances of finding anyone alive were slim. “The main obstacle is that we don’t have a clear idea of how many people are buried as nobody is claiming that their relatives are missing, unlike on previous occasions,” Sudantha Ranasinghe, a military official heading the operation, told The Guardian.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is currently visiting Japan, said arrangements had been made to remove the garbage dump, but it came crashing down before relocation work could begin. “Those who lost their homes and those who have to be relocated will be compensated,” he said in a statement.
There have been concerns over the safety at the site in Colombo, with residents demanding that that the piling garbage be cleared. The AFP said that about 800 tonnes of waste were added to the dump every day, and that the government had planned to remove it. The collapse occurred as many people were marking Aluth Avurudda, or the Sinhalese New Year, a major public holiday across the country.