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On Saturday, 11 March 2017, a massive landslide occurred at the Koshe landfill on the edge of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. About 150 people were present when the landslide happened; some of those trapped were able to call for help from within the debris, and 37 have been rescued and are receiving medical treatment. At least 65 people have been killed by the slide, with dozens more missing. Many of the victims were squatters and scavengers who lived and worked at the dump.

Neighborhood in Addis Ababa – Flickr/Lars Plougmann

The landfill also serves as a home for many people people live there, usually in homes made of mud, sticks, and plastic sheeting, because as rent is inexpensive. An estimated 500 people also work there picking through waste, as the majority of the city of 4 million’s populations annual 300,000 tons of waste is dumped at Koshe. Amnesty International has been pressuring the government to resettle those who live at the dump, given the poor living conditions there. For now, they have transferred 290 uninjured people who were living on the landfill to a temporary shelter in a youth center in Addis Ababa.

The landfill has been in use by the capital for over 50 years. Africa’s first waste-to-energy plant is being built next to it, which some living there have blamed for the landslide as they push construction waste onto the huge rubbish pile. Construction of the plant is causing more cracks in the ground, triggering concerns of further slides. Dumping at Koshe had stopped in recent years, but resumed after farmers near the new garbage landfill complex complained and blocked dumping in their area. Officials have been warned since 2010 that the landfill was running out of room.

This landslide follows multiple recent human-caused landslides worldwide. In December 2015 in China’s Shenzhen province, a huge amount of industrial waste dumped in a quarry-turned-landfill gave way in a massive landslide that destroyed 33 buildings and killed at least 58 people. The quarry was temporarily licensed as a landfill for construction waste, but the license had expired in February 2015, though dumping continued. Other forms of manmade landslides include a series of incidents in Bangladesh in 2012, where residents illegally hill-cutting in order to build houses caused landslides that killed over a hundred people.

Sources and Further Reading:

Dozens Killed in Landslide at Ethiopia Garbage DumpWall Street Journal

Ethiopia rubbish landslide kills 48 in Addis AbabaBBC News

Dozens Dead Or Missing In Landslide At Ethiopian Garbage DumpNPR

Rubbish dump landslide kills at least 46 in EthiopiaThe Guardian

Ethiopia trash dump landslide kills more than 60CNN

Shenzhen landslide: 58 bodies found in collapsed waste dumpCNN

Shenzhen landslide caused by mountain of manmade wasteFinancial Times

Where landslides are becoming a man-made disasterIRIN

Death toll in Ethiopian garbage dump landslide rises to 65 – Reuters