Tragic weekend

Landslide at Ethiopia rubbish dump kills at least 46

Residents salvaging their belongings on Sunday in the aftermath of the landslide. According to rubbish collector Berhanu Degefe, bulldozers on top of the hill had been pushing piles of rubbish around, levelling the ground for a biogas plant. This inc
Residents salvaging their belongings on Sunday in the aftermath of the landslide. According to rubbish collector Berhanu Degefe, bulldozers on top of the hill had been pushing piles of rubbish around, levelling the ground for a biogas plant. This increased pressure on the hillside and caused the collapse.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ADDIS ABABA • At least 46 people died and dozens more have been hurt in a giant landslide at Ethiopia's largest rubbish dump outside Addis Ababa, a tragedy squatters living there blamed on a biogas plant being built nearby.

Saturday's landslide flattened dozens of homes.

Many of the victims were people who scavenged for a living in the 30ha dump, the authorities said.

Mr Musa Suleiman Abdulah, who lost his wooden shack topped with plastic sheeting, said when it happened, he heard "something like a tornado rushing to us".

Bystanders said there were still people trapped under collapsed rubbish but police were preventing locals from getting close.

Just six people were seen digging through the rubbish on Sunday looking for survivors and bodies.

For more than 40 years, the site has been Addis Ababa's main dump.

Mr Ibrahim Mohammed, whose house was narrowly spared destruction, said the disaster happened in "three minutes". He estimated that more than 300 people lived there.

According to locals, some 50 houses were built on the trash."Their livelihood depends on the trash. They collect from here and they live here," Mr Berhanu Degefe, a rubbish collector, said.

He added that bulldozers on top of the hill had been pushing piles of rubbish around, levelling ground for the biogas plant, increasing pressure on the hillside and causing the collapse.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'Landslide at Ethiopia rubbish dump kills at least 46'. Print Edition | Subscribe