Over 46 people have died and many others injured in a landslide at Ethiopia’s largest garbage dump on the outskirt of Addis Ababa.

The landslide happened on Saturday and destroyed more than 30 makeshift homes of squatters living inside the Koshe landfill (the 30-hectare) dump on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, said Dagmawit Moges, head of the city’s communications bureau. He also said, 46 people had died – 32 female and 14 male, including some children.

Moges said more bodies were expected to be found in the coming hours. “We expect the number of victims to increase because the landslide covered a relatively large area,” he said. It was not instantly clear what caused Saturday night’s disaster.

For more than 40 years, the landfill has Addis Ababa’s main garbage dumping ground. While many people come to the dump site looking to scavenge things to make a living, others live at the landfill because renting homes, largely built of mud and sticks, is relatively inexpensive there.

Assefa Teklemahimanot, a resident said about 150 people were there when the landslide occurred. Addis Ababa Mayor Diriba Kuma said 37 people had been rescued and were receiving medical treatment.

“My house was right inside there,” said a shaken Tebeju Asres, pointing to where one of the excavators was digging in deep, 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.”

The collapse has been blamed on the construction of a new biogas plant on top of the hill. Bulldozers could be seen on top of the hill pushing piles of rubbish around. The Koshe site was closed last year was closed last year by city authorities who asked people to move to a new dump site outside Addis Ababa but the community there did not want the landfill.

The landslide may have been caused by the resumption of garbage dumping at the site in recent months. The dumping had stopped in recent years but resumed after farmers in a nearby region where a new garbage landfill complex was being built objected to dumping in their area. “In the long run, we will conduct a resettling programme to relocate people who live in and around the landfill,” the Addis Ababa mayor said.

It was reported by city officials that, about 300,000 tonnes of waste are collected each year from the capital, most of it dumped at the landfill and close to 500 waste-pickers are believed to work at the landfill daily, shifting through the debris from Addis Ababa’s estimated 4 million residents.  In recent years, city officials have been trying to turn the garbage into a source of clean energy with a $120 million investment. 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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