Four more bodies were recovered from the debris of a giant open garbage dump that caught fire here and collapsed on dozens of shanties when people were celebrating the traditional New Year, taking the overall death toll to ten. “We have found 10 bodies and sent 14 more to the hospital” Brigadier Roshan Seneviratne, the military spokesman, said. Over 400 troops were deployed to rescue the slum dwellers adjacent to the 300-foot garbage dump at Meethotamulla in Kolonnawa, a suburb north of Colombo.
Around 50 to 100 houses were completely destroyed, said attorney Nuwan Bopage. The mountain of garbage caught fire and collapsed on dozens of slums as the residents were celebrating the traditional New Year on Friday. The military has been deployed to rescue people who might be trapped, police said, adding that the army and an air force helicopter were also pressed into service to douse the flames. Police said the true scale of the damage remained unclear. “A search for survivors is under way,” the police said in a statement.
Sri Lanka’s parliament was recently warned that 23 million tonnes of garbage at Kolonnawa dump was a serious health hazard. About 800 tonnes of garbage is being added to the dump on a daily basis. The residents have been carrying out persistent protests to move the dump and place it elsewhere. “This is not a natural disaster but man made due to sheer negligence by the authorities concerned,” M S Marikkar, the ruling party local member of parliament, said.