ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Desperate parents scrabbled through a towering pile of fetid garbage in the Ethiopian capital on Monday, screaming the names of missing children buried in a landslide after a mound of trash collapsed on an informal settlement killing at least 50.
“My babies, my babies, my little daughter,” cried one man wandering through the site, tears streaming down his face. Neighbours said he had lost four children.
The landslide late on Saturday also destroyed 49 dwellings and left 28 people injured, city spokesman Amare Mekonen said.
Hundreds of people live on the 50-year-old Reppi dump, the city’s only landfill site, scavenging for food and items they can sell such as recyclable metal.
The tragedy highlights the desperate poverty that drags down many Ethiopian families despite the country’s rapid economic growth and government moves to position the East African nation as a regional power.
On Monday, rescuers used bulldozers to move piles of trash as hundreds of people gathered at the scene, weeping and praying. Some dug through the garbage with their hands.
A ripple of dread ran through the crowd as a body was unearthed and taken away, wrapped in a sheet. Earlier, residents angrily turned on journalists filming the scene, driving them away with stones.
Meselu Damte, the neighbour of the weeping man, said he lost his wife and four children.
“Their bodies were found in the morning,” she said. “There are still houses that are to be found and many of my neighbours are inside.”
Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, largely fuelled by government-driven investment, but the drive to industrialise has also stoked discontent among those who feel left behind.
In October, the government imposed a national state of emergency after more than 500 people were killed in protests in Oromiya region as anger over a development scheme for the capital sparked broader anti-government demonstrations.
(Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Julia Glover)