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Sri Lanka ends search for garbage survivors as toll hits 32

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Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Minister of Law and Order and Southern Development Sagala Ratnayaka (L) visit the site of a massive garbage mountain collapse in the Meethotamulla suburb of Colombo on April 19, 2017. Hundreds of tonnes of rotting garbage piled up in Sri Lanka’s capital on April 18 after the main rubbish dump was shut following an accident that killed at least 31 people. Authorities sealed the massive 300-foot (90-metre) rubbish mountain on the northeastern edge of Colombo after it collapsed Friday, destroying 145 homes nearby and burying victims in a garbage landslide. / AFP PHOTO / Ishara S. KODIKARA

Sri Lanka on Wednesday ended the grim search for survivors five days after a huge garbage mountain collapsed onto a slum, killing 32 people and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

Another 11 people were injured when the 300-foot (90-metre) dump partially collapsed on Friday as Sri Lankans celebrated their traditional new year.

“We are still carrying out clearing operations,” said military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne.

“The final death toll is 32 and a handful of people who were listed as missing are now accounted for.”

Hundreds of security forces have been working round the clock to clear the debris at Kolonnawa on the northeastern edge of Colombo.

Authorities have declared neighbouring areas unsafe for housing. On Wednesday Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe promised survivors permanent housing within a couple of months.

He also promised to shift the garbage dump and move the residents to safer locations.

Parliament had earlier been warned that the vast tip posed a serious health hazard, and that a long-term solution was needed to dispose of Colombo’s trash.

A night of heavy rain, followed by an outbreak of fire, destabilised the 23 million-tonne garbage heap at Kolonnawa, causing its collapse.

Garbage has been piling up since Friday in the capital, home to 700,000 people, after the dump was shut down.

The Colombo Municipal Council had promised to remove the rotting piles of rubbish along the streets by noon Wednesday, but residents said it remained uncleared.

There were sporadic protests in the suburbs of Colombo against the dumping of garbage in smaller landfills in their neighbourhoods.

Police were called to disperse protesters along a main highway on Wednesday and allow garbage trucks access to new dumping grounds.


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