Twenty six people have been confirmed dead and it is feared that over a hundred more may still be buried following a landslide at a garbage dump in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Friday 14 April 2017. Material from the Meethotamulla site collapsed onto housing nearby, destroying about 145 mostly small properties and burying many people within. About 600 people have been rehoused to nearby schools and other public buildings, while several people are being treated in hospital following the event, though hopes of finding any more survivors are fading due to the toxic nature of the material involved. About a thousand rescue workers from a variety of agencies are involved in the rescue operation, though public participation has been stopped after a number of incidents of people allegedly looting from the bodies of the dead.
Ongoing rescue operations at the Meethotamulla dumps site following a landslide on 1 April 2017. Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters.
Residents of the area had apparently been complaining about the site, which rose about 90 m above the surrounding properties, for some time. The dump is thought to have contained about 23 million tonnes of waste, with about 800 tonnes more being added every day. The precise cause of the landslide is still under investigation. The area had been subject to several days of heavy rain earlier in the week, and landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids (approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall). However many people have reported seeing the dump on fire prior to the collapse, leading to fears that the incident may have been the result of deliberate malicious action by unknown persons.
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