Africa

Mozambique rubbish dump collapse kills at least 17 people

People search for survivors and belongings under collapsed piles of rubbish in Maputo, Mozambique, 19 February 2018 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Authorities have warned that a number of residents remain unaccounted for

At least 17 people - including children - have been killed in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, and many more injured after a huge mound of rubbish collapsed, officials say.

The pile of waste, some 15m (49ft) high, gave way in heavy rains at 03:00 local time (01:00 GMT) on Monday.

The dump is known to be home to some of the city's poorest residents, who build makeshift camps amid the rubbish.

Five homes on the edge were also crushed in the disaster.

Rescue workers are continuing to search for survivors.

A spokesman for the emergency services, Leonilde Pelembe, warned it was likely there were more victims under the waste.

"The information we received from local authorities is that the number of people living in those houses exceeds the number of deaths recorded," Mr Pelembe said.

The Hulene district of Maputo is one of the most deprived parts of the capital. Many, including children, have little choice but to make their homes either on or next to the dump.

The dump not only provides them with food but also goods to sell, our correspondent Jose Tembe explains.

An accident waiting to happen

Analysis by Jose Tembe, BBC Africa, Maputo

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.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Rescue workers clear rubbish as they continue to search for survivors

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 It is where they can be close to the city and collect things that have been dumped - things like outdated food to either eat or sell.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.

They never close it, and so people continue to pile garbage in the same area.

The authorities said they had previously asked residents in the area to leave because their homes were constructed illegally, Reuters news agency reports.

However one local resident whose son was injured in the landslide, Maria Huo, said: "I live in this neighbourhood because I have nowhere to go. Had the government told me to go to another place to live, I would have left here."

The city of Maputo has experienced heavy rainfall since Sunday, which has damaged homes and flooded roads.

In the poorer suburbs of cities such as Maputo, people sometimes live on land they do not own in the hope of finding work. The dwellings can be built on land that is unsafe.

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