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Sri Lanka rubbish dump landslide death toll rises to 20

A rubbish dump landslide in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo has killed at least 20 and injured more than a dozen, military spokesman and hospital officials said, as emergency workers dug into the mountain of trash in search of survivors.

Members of the Sri Lankan military work have joined the rescue effort after the landslide. Photo credit: Reuters / Dinuka Liyanawatte

The estimated 91-metre dump collapsed after flames engulfed it late on Friday, April 14 2017, the country’s traditional New Year’s Day, and witnesses said around 100 houses could have been buried.

At least four teenagers were among the dead, a nurse at the main Colombo hospital said.

“We heard a massive sound. It was like thunder. Tiles in our house got cracked. Black water started coming in,” said Kularathna, who lives near the dump.

Another resident, Mohamed, said three of his neighbours were missing and estimated that more than 100 people could have been buried.

Rescue operations continued for a second day on Saturday (local time) with soldiers using heavy equipment to remove the garbage. The search will continue at first light.

“The main obstacle is we don’t have a clear idea of how many people are buried as nobody is claiming that their relatives are missing, unlike on previous occasions,” said Sudantha Ranasinghe, the military official heading the operation.

Police said they were investigating whether the landslide was natural or man-made. They also said about 145 houses had been damaged.

Residents of the area, mostly living in shanties, have been demanding the removal of the dump saying it was causing health issues.

The Government had planned to remove it soon under an infrastructure plan.

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