Late last night, the village of Korah experienced a devastatingly large trash landslide at the biggest garbage dump known as "Koshe." Hundreds were injured, and hundreds more were trapped underneath the trash (according to different unconfirmed estimates). Rescue crews worked side by side with community members to dig out people who were buried alive. There were reports of people who had been buried under the trash that were calling for help from their cell phones. Along with reports of faint voices heard calling for help beneath the trash.
The darkness and immense amount of trash made this a difficult rescue operation. As morning has broken, the enormity of the landslide and its impact is devastating. The death toll continues to rise. Many are grieving and are frantically still looking for their friends and family.
Korah was flooded with thousands of people, over 200 police and military soldiers, 15 ambulances, huge dump trucks and bulldozers this morning. Because of the amount of people in the village, it has been extremely difficult to find people.
Landslides have happened in the dump before, but none comparable to this one. It’s common to see parts of the dump falling down. Bulldozers always come and spread the trash out to make it even in order to prevent this from happening. The problem is that the trash underneath begins to ferment and decompose. Instead of becoming dirt, it becomes ash, and the ash can’t hold its compactness. So when you put something on top of it, it caves in and slides.
All of our Carry 117 families have been located and are safe. However, this landslide happened very close to the Carry 117 compound. When standing at the Carry 117 compound looking at the mountain of trash, the landslide happened just to the left. About 20 of the 3x3 homes on the mountain were buried, and about ten of the large compounds, home to multiple families and about the size of the Carry 117 compound, have been buried. The five compounds surrounding Carry 117 have all lost somebody to this tragedy. Everyone has their traditional scarves upside down today, which is a sign of mourning. It is a dark morning in Korah.
When I spoke with our Founder & CEO, Henok Berhanu, this morning, he said, “Everybody is so sad and shocked. When you are at the scene, it’s just heartbreaking. I don’t even have words to explain what it’s like. People have lost their family. . .because of trash.”
"Everybody is crying, even the police. This is something you have never seen before. When the bulldozers are digging through the trash and go to pick it up, you see a body coming out. You can’t stand it or be there for more than a minute. The smell of the freshly moved trash and the scene is hard to stomach this morning."
The way Ethiopians mourn is the way it is described in the Bible: loud wailing, screaming and shrieking. It’s like a wave of emotion that goes through the crowds. People screaming things like "WHY GOD?" and "MY SON!!!" People being held down by five others in an attempt to protect the mourner from hurting themselves.
Henok shared the story of a woman suffering intense heartbreak, "There was a woman crying out in such heartbreak. She had been begging on the streets all day. When she walked home last night, she learned that all four of her babies were buried under the trash and have not been recovered."
I asked Henok, "What’s it like to be the leader of a ministry on the ground where this is happening?"
He responded by saying, "It’s hard. You want to do something right now. It’s emotional to realize you can’t fix it for them. And it makes your head spin when you go out of Korah and just a few minutes down the road people are walking around and sitting in cafes totally unaware of what is happening back in the trash dump. I feel heartbroken for our community. The people who live here have it hard enough. Disease and desperation already run rampant. They struggle and starve just trying to make it through one day. . .and to see what they have to face this morning is extremely unsettling."
He went on, "Spiritually? It feels like Korah is being attacked by the enemy. There is so much darkness. Right now, we need God more than ever. And it makes me sad to see the people in Korah questioning God. Wondering if God is really for them or not. . .at the same time, you understand why they would wonder."
So, how can we help?
"It’s really hard to get involved right now. The military won’t allow anyone to get close enough to what’s going on. Also, the families impacted are in such shock it’s hard to help today. However, in a few days, we are going to have a lot more clarity on what that looks like. It is safe to say we can help with providing clothing, shelter, and most importantly – food," he said.
Our hope as a ministry would be this:
That our community would continue to be covered in prayer, and God would make it crystal clear how we can best help moving forward.
That God would reveal Himself in ways people have never experienced. That God would use us for divine appointments and supernatural experiences to flex His muscles. That we are flooded with stories of what God is doing to bring beauty from the ashes.
That we would have an opportunity to empower the ladies and children of Carry 117 to love their neighbor,to be the hands and feet of Jesus where we cannot. That we could provide Carry 117 leadership with the funds needed to empower the women to cook food, purchase clothing and provide shelter for their neighbors.
That we would be an encouragement and support to other ministries in Korah serving families impacted by this tragedy. Out of the Ashes, Embracing Hope, Hope for Korah and Strong Hearts.
"I am scared what is happening in Korah will be forgotten tomorrow. I am not convinced this village will ever get the help they need. There is a lot of misinformation out there. Some people exaggerating numbers and many who are under-reporting numbers in an effort to calm the concern. Please know this, what I saw today was the definition of tragedy," Henok said.
Let's provide HOPE in the AFTERMATH.
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“To the broken the beggar and the thief. . .lifted out of the wreckage. . .I find HOPE in the AFTERMATH.” - Hillsong