Addis Ababa: Parents scrabbled through a towering pile of fetid garbage on Monday, screaming the names of children buried when a mountain of trash collapsed on makeshift homes and killed at least 65 people.
“My babies, my babies, my little daughter,” cried one man wandering through the garbage dump in the Ethiopian capital, tears streaming down his face. Neighbours said he had lost his wife and four children.
The landslide late on Saturday destroyed 49 dwellings and left 28 people injured, city spokesman Amare Mekonen said. Residents said dozens were still missing.
Hundreds of people live on the 50-year-old Reppi dump, the city’s only landfill site, scavenging for food and items they can sell such as recyclable metal.
On Monday, rescuers used bulldozers to move piles of trash as hundreds of people gathered at the scene, weeping and praying. Some dug through the garbage with their hands.
On one side of the hill, volunteers sobbed as they pulled out three corpses, including a child found on top of its mother.
Meselu Damte said the weeping man had lost his wife and four children.
“Their bodies were found in the morning,” she said. “There are still houses that are to be found and many of my neighbours are inside.”
Diggers used makeshift stretchers of plastic sheets to carry corpses to a single ambulance parked nearby.
Some volunteers expressed anger at the city administration. As well as the two excavators, only three ambulance workers were at the site. Scuffles broke out between them and residents as journalists approached.
“Stop pretending for the cameras!” one resident said. “They haven’t provided us with anything. Not even gloves. When it gets dark, we are using our mobile phones (for light).”
“We have warned the authorities for more than 10 years as the rubbish piled up. There has not been any response. It is criminal negligence,” said Taye Woldeamanuel, a 48-year-old whose sister narrowly survived the landslide.
Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, but the drive to industrialise has also stoked discontent among those who feel left behind.
In October, the government imposed a national state of emergency after more than 500 people were killed in protests in Oromiya region as anger over a development scheme for the capital sparked broader anti-government demonstrations.