Colombo (AFP) - Sri Lanka has moved over 400 families to temporary shelters after tonnes of rotting garbage collapsed onto a slum on Friday, killing at least 29 people.
Some 145 homes were destroyed when the 300-foot (90-metre) rubbish mountain came crashing down on Friday afternoon at Kolonnawa on the northeastern edge of Colombo. Police say many more buildings were damaged and could collapse at any time.
The search for survivors was stopped at nightfall on Monday but will resume at first light on Tuesday, military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne said.
Seven people reported missing by their families since Friday's landslide have still not been located, he added.
The collapse came as the country celebrated the traditional new year and followed a warning to parliament that the 23 million tonnes of rotting garbage posed a serious health hazard.
"We are keeping up the search tomorrow as well, but we are not very hopeful of finding anyone alive in these conditions," Seneviratne told AFP on Monday.
The death toll rose to 29 after a man injured in the landslide died in hospital Monday, Seneviratne added.
Disaster management officials said 1,700 people had been moved to temporary shelters in state schools while the government looked for alternative accommodation.
- 'Avoidable' tragedy -
Disaster management minister Anura Yapa said the loss of life could have been avoided had local residents acted on warnings to move issued as recently as a fortnight ago.
"Some had even been offered money to rent homes and move out. Some took it, but most didn't," Yapa told reporters.
"These deaths could have been avoided if they had moved out, but this is not the time to blame anyone."
He said the government would launch a "military-type" operation to dispose of garbage in the capital and neighbouring areas.
However, activist group ?Decent Lanka 2015? said ad hoc compensation and relocation was not the answer to a festering problem.
?The waste dump exposes all political parties and alliances in both provincial and central government as clueless, politically illiterate and insensitive to sensitive issues effecting the people,? the group said.
It called for more talks with residents before rushing any relocation.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was visiting Japan at the time of the collapse, said arrangements had been made to clear away the garbage dump, but it came crashing down before work could begin.
About 800 tonnes of solid waste from the capital is added to the open dump every day. Efforts are under way to generate electricity using the waste.
Police have stepped up security in the area following reports of looting and said they arrested 23 men suspected of stealing victims' belongings.
Wickremesinghe said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had offered help with the recovery effort and a technical team would be sent to Sri Lanka to evaluate the situation.
The Japanese embassy in Colombo said Tokyo was sending emergency supplies, including tents and sleeping bags, water purifiers and portable electricity generators to help with the relief operations.