At least 16 people were killed and more than 600 others fled their homes after a massive mound of garbage collapsed on part of a town outside of Sri Lanka's capital during festivities to mark the local new year, officials said Saturday. Four people were rescued from underneath the mound, but it was unclear whether any others were buried, said military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne. Soldiers were searching the site. The AP reports 625 people whose homes were either destroyed or under threat were being housed in nearby schools. The Disaster Management Center said at least 12 other people were injured in the incident, which happened Friday night in Meetotamulla, a town near Colombo.
The site has been used to dump Colombo's garbage for the past few years as authorities sought to give the capital a face-lift. But residents living in tiny homes in the area have protested against waste being dumped there because of health hazards. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a statement Saturday that the government would soon remove the garbage dump from the area. (Read more garbage stories.)