At least 62 people have been confirmed dead in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after they were buried alive by a massive garbage landslide Saturday night.
Eyewitnesses say about 150 people were sorting through garbage at Koshe dumpsite in Ethiopia’s capital when the landslide occurred, burying all of them alive.
The area has been the dumping site for the city’s garbage for more than five decades. Dozens of children are among the dead, reports the BBC, and as of Monday, according to Addis Ababa Mayor Deriba Kuma, 20 men and 45 women have died, bringing the death total to 65.
“My mother and three of my sisters were there when the landslide happened. Now I don’t know the fate of all of them,” a local resident, Tebeju Asres, said.
Hundreds of people have been making a living by scavenging at the site for food leftovers and reusable items.
Locals say some people even resided at the dumpsite permanently, sifting through garbage for items they can sell.
The death toll is expected to rise as Ethiopian authorities continue to search for more survivors.
Warnings of a Landslide
According to locals, smaller collapses have occurred at the dumpsite, killing at least two or three people.
Since 2010, local authorities have been warning residents of the area to keep off the dumpsite as it was becoming overfilled.
And with the continued erection of makeshift structures around the site, space has been quickly running out.
City officials have been trying to turn Koshe dumpsite into a source of clean energy by establishing a $120 million waste-to-energy facility, which is currently under construction.
The facility is expected to generate at least 50 megawatts of electricity upon completion. The city of Addis Ababa generates about 300,000 tons of waste annually, most of which is dumped at Koshe dumpsite.
“In the long run, we will conduct a resettling program to relocate people who live in and around the landfill,” Diriba Kuma, the mayor of Addis Ababa, told USA Today.
The cause of the deadly landslide is still not yet known but city officials suspect it could have been caused by the continued dumping of garbage at the site.
With an estimated population of more than 86 million people, Ethiopia is struggling with a myriad of economic challenges, including rampant unemployment, poverty, hunger, and corruption.
At least two-thirds of Ethiopians are illiterate and more than 78 percent of the population struggles with an income of less than $2 a day.
Although Ethiopia has made great progress in terms of economic growth over the last few decades, it is still considered one of the poorest countries in Africa.