The death toll from the sudden collapse of a giant open garbage dump near Colombo reached 31 today even as Sri Lankan army personnel searched for missing persons four days after the debris buried dozens of houses. A portion of the 91-metre dump collapsed following a fire incident on Friday as the residents celebrated the traditional Sri Lankan New Year, burying dozens of residential buildings and trapping many people in Meetotamulla area in Kolonnawa. At least seven children were among the dead. Some still remain untraceable after the mishap, officials said. The death toll climbed to 31, the Colombo Gazette reported, adding that the military was continuing its search and rescue operation at the site. After the explosion in the 23-million-tonne garbage mound, the air force was deployed to douse the flames.
Nearly 1,000 military security personnel, including police and special task forces, have been deployed for rescue operation. The tragedy has displaced nearly 200 families numbering more than 1500. Nearly 80 houses were completely destroyed while many more suffered partial damage, according to Sri Lanka's Disaster Management Centre. The affected families have blamed politicians for the tragedy, though President Maithripala Sirisena has ordered officials to ensure maximum relief to them. The National Building Research Organisation said people still living in over 130 houses in the area must be relocated for safety. The true scale of the damage remains unclear, police said as about 800 tonnes of garbage were added to the dump daily. The Parliament was recently warned that 23 million tonnes of garbage at Kolonnawa dump was a serious hazard.
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