Relief operations continues at Meethotamulla
Number of bodies recovered from the Meethotamulla garbage dump collapse have been increased to 26, including six children.
Police reported 26 deaths by Sunday afternoon in the wake of a woman receiving treatment at the National Hospital succumbing to her injuries yesterday morning.
Over 145 houses were damaged in the incident that occurred Friday.
Attorney-at-law Nuwan Bopage of civil society group representing the interests of Meethotamulla residents said that there had been a series of protests beginning January 4, 2012 demanding an immediate halt to garbage dumping at Meethotamulla.
Bopage added that both the Rajapaksa administration and yahapalana government had simply ignored their protests.
According to Bopage, there had been 15 protests since January 2012 to pressure successive governments to tackle the crisis. Bopage admitted that all their efforts were in vain. He said that those who had perished at Meethotamulla were all poor people.
Rescue Operation By Soldiers
Meanwhile, soldiers and rescue workers are still continuing search operation to find people trapped after a mountain of garbage came crashing down in Meethotamulla last Friday.
Police have also launched a probe to ascertain whether the collapse was a natural calamity or an act of sabotage. The site has been used to dump garbage for the past few years amid protests of the area residents. The residents living in homes in the area have protested against all the waste being dumped in Meethotamulla because of health hazards
Troops are still involved in the relief operations in Meethotamulla garbage dump. A section of the garbage dump collapsed on Friday (14th April) causing damage to a large number of houses.
More than one thousand security forces personnel and heavy machinery of the security forces are involved the clearing operations.
Relief operations are carried out under the supervision of Security Forces Commander (West) Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe. He has requested the local people to provide more information about the houses in the locality in order to assist the relief operations to be more effective.
From Friday evening up to now 10 excavator machines of the Army Engineers and a large number of dump trucks are involved in the relief operations.
According to Major General Ranasinghe about 180 meter long and 75 meter wide section of the Meethotamulla garbage dump had collapsed on to an area where according to Government records, 145 houses were located. The disaster has completely destroyed more than 40 houses while the rest of the houses have been partly damaged. The area is being sectioned in to three zones and relief operations are carried out. Troops were able to rescue for people and recover 19 bodies, he further said.
Rescue personnel are faced with the problem of finding the exact number of houses in the affected area. Some parts of the site are buried in 30 to 40 feet of garbage. People are requested to provide information of houses where their relatives and friends have lived in order to expedite the relief operations.
In the event of any further collapse of the garbage dump, people living in vulnerable parts along the garbage dump may temporarily be evacuated in order to prevent another disaster. Meanwhile troops will continue with the relief operations.
Appeal by Sampanthan
In the meantime, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan, in a statement, asked the government to ensure such a catastrophe does not recur in the future.
‘I wish to extend my deepest condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones in the unfortunate incident that occurred at Meethotamulla on 14 April,’ the statement read.
‘This incident has shattered the lives of hundreds of families in the area. I urge the government, to continue to take all steps necessary to restore the lives of the affected people and ensure that such a catastrophe does not recur in the future.’
‘At this time of tragedy, I wish to place my sincere appreciation to all those involved in various ways to provide help to those affected. Moreover, my prayers are also with those who were injured in the incident. I wish them a speedy recovery.
‘I would like to appeal to all people to express their solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have been affected in this unfortunate disaster,’ the Opposition Leader said.
- Asian Tribune -