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20 April 2017, 07:24 | Erica Roy
A damaged house is seen during a rescue mission after a garbage dump collapsed and buried dozens of houses in Colombo, Sri Lanka on April 15, 2017.
The death toll from the collapse of a massive garbage mound near Sri Lanka's capital rose to 26 on Sunday, and activists said 20 more people could still be buried underneath the debris. Maj.
Residents still say around 100 people may be missing, but the state-run Disaster Management Centre (DMC) revised down its own figure for the missing to 11 from an initial 30. The mountain of garbage caught fire and collapsed on dozens of homes as the residents were celebrating the traditional New Year.
The site became a dumping ground for Colombo's garbage as authorities pushed to develop the capital in recent years.
Numerous residents near the dump live in shanties and they have been calling for its removal, saying it was causing health problems.
"The waste dump exposes all political parties and alliances in both provincial and central government as clueless, politically illiterate and insensitive to sensitive issues effecting the people", the group said.
The residents near the dump had been protesting for months, demanding that the garbage dump be relocated. "But they brought the garbage in and made this place frightful", rickshaw driver Dilip Mirmal told AP news agency.
Hundreds of soldiers, backed by heavy earth moving equipment were digging through the rubbish and the wreckage of some 145 homes that were destroyed when a side of the 300-foot (90-metre) high dump crashed on Friday. "This is not a natural disaster but man made due to sheer negligence by the authorities concerned", M S Marikkar, the ruling party local member of parliament, said. Bicycles and auto-rickshaws, the three-wheeled vehicles used as local taxis, were crushed or lying topsy-turvy. "I have a mix of feelings, of anger, frustration and sorrow". More people were feared to be trapped as the military struggled to clear the rubble and rescue people or recover bodies.
He said 625 people whose homes were either destroyed or faced threats because of the collapse were being housed in nearby schools.
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