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PICS: Massive mound of garbage collapses, kills 22

World

Colombo — The death toll from the collapse of a massive garbage mound near Sri Lanka's capital rose to 22 on Sunday, and activists said about 20 more people could still be buried underneath the debris.

Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the rescue efforts, said authorities were struggling to determine exactly how many people were trapped under the debris. But lawyer and activist Nuwan Bopage, who had worked with local residents in their protests to have the garbage dump removed, said about 20 were trapped.

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Sri Lankan military rescuers walk past a house damaged in the garbage dump collapse in Meetotamulla, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 16, 2017. The death toll from the collapse of the massive garbage mound near Sri Lanka's capital rose to more than a dozen Sunday, and residents feared more victims could be buried underneath the debris. Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the rescue efforts, said 78 houses were destroyed and more than 150 were damaged. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)Sri Lankan military rescuers and onlookers rest on top of a damaged house at the site of a garbage dump collapse in Meetotamulla, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 16, 2017. The death toll from the collapse of the massive garbage mound near Sri Lanka's capital rose to more than a dozen Sunday, and residents feared more victims could be buried underneath the debris. Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the rescue efforts, said 78 houses were destroyed and more than 150 were damaged. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)A Sri Lankan woman affected by the garbage dump collapse cries as she awaits details about her missing family members outside an information center in Meetotamulla, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 16, 2017. The death toll from the collapse of the massive garbage mound near Sri Lanka's capital rose to more than a dozen Sunday, and residents feared more victims could be buried underneath the debris. Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the rescue efforts, said 78 houses were destroyed and more than 150 were damaged. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)Sri Lankan government soldiers and rescue workers cary a body recovered from site of a garbage dump collapse in Meetotamulla, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 16, 2017. The death toll from the collapse of the massive garbage mound near Sri Lanka's capital rose to more than a dozen Sunday, and residents feared more victims could be buried underneath the debris. Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the rescue efforts, said 78 houses were destroyed and more than 150 were damaged. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)Sri Lankan military officers work in a rescue mission at the site of a garbage dump collapse in Meetotamulla, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 16, 2017. The death toll from the collapse of the massive garbage mound near Sri Lanka's capital rose to more than a dozen Sunday, and residents feared more victims could be buried underneath the debris. Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the rescue efforts, said 78 houses were destroyed and more than 150 were damaged. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)A Sri Lankan man affected by the garbage dump collapse assists military rescuers dig his buried house in Meetotamulla, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 16, 2017. The death toll from the collapse of the massive garbage mound near Sri Lanka's capital rose to more than a dozen Sunday, and residents feared more victims could be buried underneath the debris. Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the rescue efforts, said 78 houses were destroyed and more than 150 were damaged. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)Sri Lankan government soldiers and rescue workers cary a body recovered from the site of a garbage dump collapse in Meetotamulla, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 16, 2017. The death toll from the collapse of the massive garbage mound near Sri Lanka's capital rose to more than a dozen Sunday, and residents feared more victims could be buried underneath the debris. Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the rescue efforts, said 78 houses were destroyed and more than 150 were damaged. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)Sri Lankans affected by the garbage dump collapse await news of missing relatives outside an information center in Meetotamulla, on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 16, 2017. The death toll from the collapse of the massive garbage mound near Sri Lanka's capital rose to more than a dozen Sunday, and residents feared more victims could be buried underneath the debris. Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the rescue efforts, said 78 houses were destroyed and more than 150 were damaged. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Military personnel were still searching the site in Meetotamulla, a town outside Colombo, the capital, and speaking to survivors to determine how many were missing.

The tragedy occurred on Friday evening as people were celebrating the local new year.

A resident who identified himself only as Sanjaya said that he and others were searching for three neighbors — an elderly man, his daughter and granddaughter — who were buried under the collapse.

Twelve people who were injured in the disaster remained in the hospital.

Ranasinghe said 78 houses were destroyed and more than 150 were damaged.

The site has been used to dump Colombo's garbage for the past few years as authorities sought to give the capital a face-lift. But residents living in tiny homes in the area have protested against all the waste being dumped there because of health hazards.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Saturday that the government would soon remove the garbage dump from the area.

He also said 625 people whose homes were either destroyed or under threat from the collapse were being housed in nearby schools.

AP

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