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Sri Lanka Rubbish Dump Collapse Kills 16 | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Sri Lankan woman who lost her family members in a garbage dump collapse cries in Meetotamulla, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday, April 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Emergency workers were on Saturday digging in search for survivors after a garbage mountain landslide in Sri Lanka’s capital killed at least 16 people and injured over a dozen, military spokesman and hospital officials said on Saturday.

The estimated 91-meter dump collapsed after flames engulfed it in Colombo’s Kolonnawa neighborhood late on Friday, the island nation’s traditional new year’s day.

The death toll rose to 16 as more bodies were discovered on Saturday, army spokesman Roshan Senivirathna said. At least four teenagers were among the dead, a nurse at the main Colombo hospital told Reuters.

“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.

“We tried to get out but we were trapped inside. We shouted for help and were rescued later.”

Rescue operations continued for a second day on Saturday with soldiers using heavy equipment to remove the garbage.

Police said about 145 houses had been damaged, but they did not say how many had been buried.

“We remain on standby, some people who were pulled out of wrecked homes were brought in overnight,” Colombo National hospital spokeswoman Pushpa Soysa told AFP. “Five of them have succumbed to their injuries.”

Many residents had evacuated their homes before the disaster because of the heavy rain.

“The casualties would have been much higher if most people had not left their homes earlier in the day,” a disaster management official told reporters at the site.

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.