Rescue workers are still searching for survivors after a huge garbage dump collapsed in Colombo, killing at least 29 people. More than 400 families have been moved to temporary shelters.
Soldiers and rescuers worked tirelessly on Monday to find survivors after a towering garbage dump in the Kolonnawa suburb collapsed on Friday, killing at least 29 people. Another 11 people were injured in the disaster and 150 homes damaged, sparking fears that more could collapse.
The death toll looked set to rise, however, with dozens more still missing. The 90-meter (300-foot) mountain of trash collapsed as Colombo celebrated the traditional new year.
"We are keeping up a search, but we are not very hopeful of finding anyone alive in these conditions," military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne said on Monday.
Disaster management officials said 1,700 people had been moved to temporary shelters in state schools while the government looked for alternative accommodation.
According to police, many residents had already evacuated their homes after heavy rains on Thursday had caused garbage slides and damaged the foundations of many homes.
Sri Lanka PM vows to close dump
Despite being warned recently that the 23 million tons of waste at Kolonnawa were a serious health hazard, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was visiting Japan at the time, finally promised over the weekend to shut down the dump.
With around 800 tons of solid waste added to the site every day, the mountain of trash has absorbed much of Colombo's garbage for several years as large areas of the capital have undergone extensive renovations.
"These people did not choose to live next to a dump. But they brought the garbage in and made this place horrible," rickshaw driver Dilip Mirmal told AP news agency. The 34-year-old's home was spared in Friday's collapse, while surrounding buildings were completely destroyed, killing 23 of his neighbors.
"This is a government-made disaster," he said. "I have a mix of feelings, of anger, frustration and sorrow. We have been trying to protest and raise these issues, but no one was listening."
ksb/jm (AP, AFP)