ADDIS ABABA - At least 46 people died and dozens more were hurt in a giant landslide at Ethiopia’s largest rubbish dump outside Addis Ababa, a tragedy squatters living there blamed on a biogas plant being built nearby. Saturday’s landslide flattened dozens of homes of people living in the Koshe dump when part of the largest pile of rubbish collapsed, an AFP journalist said.

Dagmawit Moges, head of the city communications bureau, said 46 people had died — 32 female and 14 male, including some children. Many of the victims were squatters who scavenged for a living in the 30-hectare (74-acre) dump, she said. Musa Suleiman Abdulah, who lost his wooden shack topped with plastic sheeting in the disaster, said when it happened, he heard “a big sound”. “When we came out, something like a tornado is rushing to us. We started to collect family members” and escape, he said. “People helped. My child and family left before the destruction happened.”

The streets in the neighbourhood below were filled with women sobbing and wailing. Bystanders said there were still people trapped under collapsed mounds of rubbish, but police were preventing locals from getting close to the site. Just six people were seen digging through the rubbish on Sunday looking for survivors and bodies.

Ibrahim Mohammed, a day labourer living at the landfill whose house was narrowly spared destruction, said the disaster happened in “three minutes”. He estimated that more than 300 people live on the landfill.  Construction materials, wooden sticks and plastic sheeting could be seen in the wreckage, the AFP journalist said.