Landslide at massive Ethopia garbage dump kills at least 35, dozens missing

Fiona Keating
Ethiopia hunger crisis

At least 35 people have been killed after a landslide at a garbage dump on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, with many others missing.

The incident happened on Saturday (12 March) at the Koshe Garbage Landfill, said Mayor Diriba Kuma, with 35 bodies recovered so far. Nearly 40 people have been rescued and receiving medical treatment. Most of the dead were women and children, city spokeswomanan Dagmit Moges said.

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"My house was right inside there," said one survivor, indicating to where one of the excavators was digging in black mud. "My mother and three of my sisters were there when the landslide happened. Now I don't know the fate of all of them."

Several makeshift homes and concrete builders were buried in the landslide. The landfill site has been a dumping ground for Addis Ababa for more than 50 years.

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Use of the site had stopped but had recently restarted again, after farmers blocked dumping in their neighbourhood. The resumption of rubbish being dumped here was the probable cause of the landslide, local resident Assefa Teklemahimanot told AP.

There are believed to be around 150 people at the site when the incident occurred, Assefa said.

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Many people come to the site to scavenge for items to sell, while others have set up home at the landfill area as renting homes, mostly constructed of mud and sticks, is fairly cheap.

At least 300 people come to the site, called 'scratchers', eke out a living from sifting through tonnes of rubbish, according to a Guardian report. Some of the most highly prized items include plastic bottles, waste airline food and discarded items from hotels, the African Union HQ buildings and embassies.

According to the site supervisor, scavenging at the site is can be very dangerous: "Food comes from some place and a guy is going into the truck and he is injured and they take him to hospital but he died. Also, someone else lost their legs in an encounter with a bulldozer.

"Two months ago a man who jumped in the truck dropped off when it broke. In recent accidents, two were women. The bulldozer operator has a lot to do to push the garbage. If they see something they want when the bulldozer moves the garbage, they don't think about their life."

Landslides have occurred in the past two years but this is the largest death toll in recent history.

"In the long run, we will conduct a resettling program to relocate people who live in and around the landfill," the Addis Ababa mayor said.

A $120m (£98.62m) investment was ploughed into the area to turn the dump into a source of clean energy. The Koshe waste-to-energy facility, which has been under construction since 2013, is expected to generate 50 megawatts of electricity upon completion.

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