Many people lived in makeshift houses on top of the landfill
The government had been trying to resettle people living in the area
The death toll has risen to 113, after several days of searching turned up more bodies following a weekend landslide at a massive landfill outside Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
Communications Minister Negeri Lencho told CNN Wednesday the bodies of 38 males and 75 females had been recovered, many of them children.
“This is the result of the search because this is a vast area. It is also deep. The amount (that) collapsed, it is deep, it takes time,” the minister said, explaining the sharp increase in the death toll.
At least 60 people were counted dead shortly after the mounds of decaying trash and debris gave way late Saturday. Many people lived in makeshift houses on top of the garbage.
“There is no explanation for this accident except naturally the pile of this trash may have been shaken. The investigation … is still going on,” Lencho said.
The landfill is called Koshe, which means “dust.” It’s been around for decades, servicing the sprawling and growing capital.
“It’s a sad story because the government has been trying to resettle the people residing in the area,” Communications Minister Negeri Lencho said. The government had also been building a factory to convert waste products at the landfill into energy, he said.
Fisseha Tekle, the chief researcher for Amnesty International in Ethiopia, said the government claims it has been developing for the last decade, “but it was not able to take residents out of this deplorable situation,” he said.
And, he said, there had been no concrete action to remove the people from this area prior to this incident.
The smells permeate the landfill and nearby areas. Small fires erupt because of the methane gas the decomposing trash produces.
“And those people are living in the middle of that location. It’s not a landfill anymore, it’s like a mountain,” Tekle said. “Whatever kind of country you are, you cannot let people live in this situation.”
Tekle said the government should resettle the people and do an “accountability investigation.”
The government is “fully responsible for the people living on this site and for their condition of those people who died, and for their lack of safety,” he said.
Along with the dead, dozens were injured in the landslide, Lencho said. Video showed crews with heavy equipment at the scene scraping and digging through the debris and shots of flimsy and upended dwellings.
The government has transferred 290 people who were living on the landfill, but who were not injured in the accident, to a temporary shelter in a youth center in Addis Ababa.
Many people at the landfill were “frantically looking for friends and family,” Hope for Korah, a Canadian NGO that assists people living in the area near the dump, said on its Facebook page.
Some of the people who were trapped in the landslide tried to call authorities to get help from inside the debris, the group said.
One woman and her three children managed to scramble to safety just as their home became caught up in the landslide, according to the NGO.
A similar landslide occurred in December 2015 at a waste dump in Shenzhen, China, killing 58.
CNN’s Briana Duggan reported from Nairobi, Kenya, and Ryan Prior and Joe Sterling wrote from Atlanta.