04/19/2017, 09.58

Colombo, victims of landfill slide rises to 32

Melani Manel Perera

On April 14, a mountain of waste 91 meters high has hit the slums of Meethotamulla. About 80 houses buried, another 17 damaged. At least 1,500 police officers involved in the search for 30 missing. Residents had complained for some time of the danger of the landfill.

Colombo (AsiaNews) -  The number of victims from a landfill avalanche that hit slums below the Meethotamulla dump on the outskirts of Colombo on April 14 has risen to 32 people. About 1,500 police officers have been deployed onsite with rescue teams working tirelessly to recover the people who are still missing, about thirty in all. Meanwhile, the National Building Research Organization (Nbro) said the area is at risk and have evacuated residents of 150 homes.

The disaster occurred on the day when Buddhists and Tamils ​​celebrate the start of the new year. A mountain of waste, more than 90 meters high, gave way due to heavy rains and fires that had raged in the days before engulfing the shanty town. About 25 thousand tons of garbage were discharged into the surrounding area, burying everything. According to the latest updates, at least 80 houses were completely destroyed and another 17 damaged. Approximately 980 persons (228 families) have been displaced.

The long-term residents complain about the dangers of the landfill, which was opened in 2009 to replace that of Bloemendhal. The inhabitants of the slums repeatedly protested in front of the Colombo Municipal Council demanding the closure of the waste collection center, where every day between 800 to 900 tons of non-recyclable material is unloaded.

Some activists, lawyers and protesters have also created a group to give voice to the protests, "DecentLanka2015". The group complains that the landfill affects the lives of more than 8,700 families living in eight divisions of the area, creating health problems and nauseating odors, polluting the waters, favoring the proliferation of mosquitoes and other insects.

In April 2016 the Ministry of the western province had promised to transfer from the landfill Meethotamulla at Aruwakkalu, in the Puttalam district within three months. The project has been opposed by the Ministry of Environment, and later it was determined that the area identified for the landfill was designed to produce electricity.  

The "DecentLanka2015" activists claim: "People cannot live with so corrupt and irresponsible a government. They want definite answers on these delicate issues. "

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