At least 60 people were killed by an avalanche of debris in an Ethiopian landfill on Saturday night. Mountains of trash at Koshee Garbage Landfill near Addis Ababa collapsed in a massive landslide, destroying the makeshift shanties that lined its slopes and killing scavengers who earn a living sorting trash for resale. One resident told the Associated Press that around 150 people were on site during the collapse. Dozens are still missing.
Addis Ababa city spokeswoman Dagmawit Moges said most of the dead were women and children.
For half a century, this landfill was the repository for the capital city’s garbage, accepting an estimated annual volume of 300,000 tons in recent years. Koshe, which means “dirty” in the local Amharic language, has experienced smaller collapses resulting in several fatalities, but nothing on this scale of this latest accident.Addis Ababa Mayor Diriba Kuma said 37 people had been rescued and received medical treatment, two with serious injuries.
The landside had been closed for several years, but dumping had resumed in recent months after farmers near the site of a proposed replacement landfill objected to dumping in their area. “NIMBY” (not in my backyard) pushback has also proven effective in Lebanon’s waste wars, with aggressive opposition to the Naameh dump site in the mountains southeast of Beirut and the open-sea dumpsite formerly active in Sidon.
Since 2010, city officials have warned that the landfill was over capacity, expansion is constrained by nearby neighborhood development. In 2013, the city began construction on a $120 MIL waste-to-energy facility that will convert garbage into clean energy. It will become Africa’s first waste-to-energy plant when completed, generating 50 megawatts of electricity each year.
An estimated 500 waste-pickers work at the landfill, sorting through the debris to make a living, much like the workers in Cairo’s sprawling “garbage city”. Others choose to live on the site as landfill housing, made of mud and sticks, is relatively inexpensive to rent.
“In the long run, we will conduct a resettling program to relocate people who live in and around the landfill,” the Addis Ababa mayor said. Too late for the victims of the landslide.