ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The death toll from a collapse at a landfill outside Ethiopia’s capital has risen sharply to 113, an Addis Ababa city official said Wednesday, as the country began three days of mourning for victims who were mostly women and children.
Dagmawit Moges confirmed the new toll Wednesday evening. Meanwhile, Addis Ababa Mayor Diriba Kuma told state broadcaster EBC the search-and-rescue effort soon would be completed and an investigation into the cause of the accident would begin.
Hopes were waning for survivors, though an official with the city’s emergency department, Nigatu Mamo, said one person had been pulled out alive on Monday, two days after the disaster.
Saturday’s collapse of a mountain of garbage buried makeshift mud-and-stick homes inside the Koshe landfill on the outskirts of the capital. Excavators and rescuers have been pulling bodies from the black mud since then.
Nigatu said excavators were being redeployed from various construction projects around Addis Ababa to help in the search.
“We will continue the effort until we are directed to stop it. Our rescuers are working in two shifts, day and night,” the emergency official said.
Residents have suggested various reasons for the collapse. Some blamed the dumping of trash that had resumed at the landfill in recent months after protests at a newer landfill site. Others blamed the construction of a new waste-to-energy plant at Koshe.
Officials said they have already relocated about 300 people from the landfill, where hundreds of waste-pickers salvaged items to make a living and others found inexpensive housing.
The mayor said people whose family members died in the collapse have received money ranging from $430 to $650 each, and that they would be resettled permanently in the coming years.
The landfill has been a dumping ground for the capital’s garbage for more than 50 years. Smaller collapses have occurred at Koshe — or “dirty” in the local Amharic language — in the past two years but only two or three people were killed, residents said.
The deadly collapse has been a shock to many in a country that has prided itself on having one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.