17 March 2017
Koshe, Ethiopia: the worst garbage dump landslide in recent years
The death toll from the terrible garbage dump landslide at Koshe in Ethiopia on Saturday is now known to have reached 115, with fears that more bodies may remain buried. The landslide occurred on Saturday when a section of the dump collapsed onto a slum built at the toe of the slope. The majority of fatalities are reported to be women and children. The most-informative set of images can be found in this CBS News article from a few days ago, including the image below of the crown of the landslide, which suggests that the crown of the landslide has a rotational component:-
From this image the landslide looks to be a comparatively simple failure in an oversteepened slope. The image below, also via CBS News, shows the rescue operations further down the slope, which indicates that the lower reaches of the landslide may have behaved as an earthflow. Again, this is not unexpected:
Africa Review has a good article on the possible causes of the landslide:
The people of Koshe lived in squalor of a degree that is uncommon in the city of four million people. Last year, the government tried to close the landfill and move it to a new location, but opposition from people living near the new site forced authorities to reverse their decision.
Addis Ababa’s construction boom didn’t leave Koshe untouched; a biogas plant is being built on top of the rubbish dump. Koshe residents who spoke to AFP blamed the landslide on the facility’s construction. They said bulldozers that packed down soil to make way for the new plant destabilised the hillside.
[Communications Minister Negeri Lencho] said he could not comment on the cause of tragedy, saying an investigation was under way. He had earlier said slum dwellers may have inadvertently caused the disaster.
Being buried in a garbage dump landslide is truly terrible. The survival rate is particularly low given the nature of the material and the potential for the waste to generate methane that can fill any spaces within the mass. Back in 2008 I wrote a blog post about the impact of garbage landslides, and our comparatively poor understanding thereof. In 2011 I posted about a terrible garbage landslide at Irisan in Baguio, Philippines.