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Wednesday 28 June 2017

Death toll rises in Sri Lanka rubbish heap collapse

Rescue workers at the rubbish dump collapse (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)
Rescue workers at the rubbish dump collapse (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

The death toll from the collapse of a massive rubbish mound near Sri Lanka's capital has climbed to 22 with up to 20 more people feared buried underneath the debris.

Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the rescue efforts, said authorities were struggling to determine exactly how many people were trapped under the debris due to a lack of information from the residents.

But lawyer and activist Nuwan Bopage, who had worked with local residents in their protests to have the dump removed, said about 20 people were buried under the debris.

Military personnel were still searching the site in Meetotamulla, a town outside Colombo, the capital, and speaking to survivors to determine how many were missing.

The tragedy occurred on Friday evening as people were celebrating the local new year.

One resident said that he and others were searching for three neighbours, an elderly man, his daughter and granddaughter, who were buried under the collapse.

Twelve people who were injured in the disaster remained in the hospital.

Maj Gen Ranasinghe said 78 houses were destroyed and more than 150 were damaged.

The site has been used to dump Colombo's rubbish for the past few years as authorities sought to give the capital a face-lift. But residents living in the area have protested because of health hazards.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the government would soon remove the dump from the area.

He also said 625 people whose homes were either destroyed or under threat from the collapse were being housed in nearby schools.

AP

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