ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The death toll has risen to 72 after Saturday’s collapse of a mountain of garbage in a landfill outside Ethiopia’s capital, state broadcaster EBC reported Tuesday. The government declared three days of national mourning, starting Wednesday.
Many victims were women and children as makeshift mud-and-stick homes inside the Koshe landfill were buried in debris. It was not clear how the collapse occurred. Residents have said the dumping of trash had resumed there in recent months after protests at a newer landfill site. Others have blamed the construction of a new waste-to-energy plant at Koshe.
Officials said they have already relocated about 300 people from the landfill on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, where hundreds of waste-pickers salvaged items to make a living and others found inexpensive housing.
The first funerals of victims began Monday. More than 50 people caught in the collapse have received medical treatment, said Solomon Bussa, the chief of clinical services at the Alert Hospital where the injured have been taken.
The landfill has been a dumping ground for the capital’s garbage for more than 50 years. Smaller collapses have occurred at Koshe — or “dirty” in the local Amharic language — in the past two years but only two or three people were killed, residents said.
Officials said the landfill receives close to 300,000 tons of waste collected each year from the capital.