A large garbage mound gave way during heavy rains in Mozambique’s capital city on Monday, killing at least 17 people, officials said.
A search for additional victims continued at the Hulene garbage dump on the outskirts of Maputo, and authorities feared they’d find more bodies. The huge mound rose to the height of a three-story building in a poor, densely populated area of the city, Portuguese news agency Lusa said.
Several homes were destroyed and many residents left their homes, fearing additional collapses.
“The mountains of garbage collapsed on the houses and many families were still inside these residences,” Fatima Belchoir, a national disaster official, told Lusa. Authorities are trying to help people who lost their homes, she said.
The Hulene garbage dump is the largest such facility in Maputo. People often comb through the garbage, searching for food and items to sell.
Health workers have long raised concerns about the impact of the fumes, flies and other hazards of the dump on the surrounding community. Municipal officials have previously discussed the closure of the dump.
The incident took place at around 3 am local time (6.30 am Indian time) in the Hulene locality, one of the poorest parts of the city. The pile of waste was about 15 meters (49+ feet) high.
Officials said the affected houses were built illegally and authorities had earlier asked residents to leave.
The dump was here when I began living in the area in the 1980s. I saw the buildings being erected around it.
The municipal authorities have tried to clear it. Each time the rainy season comes, they remove people and give them plots of land.
But when there is no rain, people move back to the rubbish dump. It is where they can be close to the city and collect things that have been dumped – things like outdated food to either eat or sell.
The government keeps on promising and promising to close the dump for good, but they never do it.