News The 3 Whats of the Meethotamulla Tragedy

The 3 Whats of the Meethotamulla Tragedy

2017 Apr 16

What Happened

On Friday, the 14th of April, 2017, whilst many across the island of Sri Lanka were ringing in the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year, or Avurudu, as termed by the locals, a residential neighbourhood in the area of Meethotamulla had less cause for celebration, and rang in the New Year amidst panic and despair, as a section of the infamous garbage mountain, or Kunu Kanndha, had collapsed on several houses in the area, killing over 19 individuals, and wounding several more.


Image Courtesy of Daily News

Joint operations conducted by the tri-forces, the fire brigade, the Police and the Special Task Forces are currently underway in the hope of rescuing those who may still be trapped under the debris.

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As quoted in an article from The New York Times;

“Police officers on Saturday still hoped to find people alive under the rubble and had retrieved 19 dead bodies. More than 180 people lost their homes, and that number may increase; a territory extending 600 feet in all directions has been declared a danger zone.”

Social Media has been on fire with updates regarding the relief attempts that transpired over the course of the weekend, and many have shared numerous ways in which the general public could also provide any assistance to the distressed families who have been displaced due to the disaster.

However theirs a flipside to the story that many of us don’t know. Check it out in the video below.


What Now

As of this afternoon, according to Ada Derana,

“Troops are still involved in the relief operations in Meethotamulla garbage dump. 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.

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”

Want to do your part towards helping the community?
  • Check out the event page titled #DisasterReliefLKA – Meethotamulla on Facebook. They provide updates of the progress of donations towards the victims, as well as key contacts and collective donation points. Currently, it has been noted that there a generous inflow of food and water has been received; however, items such as mosquito nets, feminine hygiene products, baby formula, etc. are an urgent requirement in the area. A further list of items can be found on the page, or you may contact one of the volunteers to get a more current list of necessary provisions.

  • The Disaster Management Centre (DMC) is one of the main organizations coordinating the relief efforts for the victims. You can get in touch with them directly +94112136136, or you can contact movements and organizations, such as The Kindness Collective, Anim8 or Virtusa, who are working in close contact with the DMC to support the families who have been affected in the aftermath of the disaster.

However, in whatever capacity you may choose to donate, remember to try and work with those who are currently working at the grass-root level, and please do try to avoid visiting the site yourself.

What Next

There have been various discussions over the years regarding a feasible solution to the issue of waste disposal which has led to similar mountains, such as the one looming over Meethotamulla.  This is not endemic to Sri Lanka, and sadly, similar tragedies have been witnessed in various other countries, such as Addis Ababa on the 18th of March this year, which claimed the lives of over a hundred people in the vicinity, with the Philippines and Guatemala also bearing a similar and greater number of deaths due to these issues.

However, a decision is yet to be made, and all we can do for now, in the spirit of solidarity with our fellow countrymen and women who have suffered in the light of this disaster, is to keep them in our prayers, and to continue to support them through the troubled times.

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