AS many as 17 people have died after heavy rains triggered the partial collapse of a huge mound of rubbish in Mozambique’s capital.

Authorities believe more bodies could be buried at the Hulene rubbish dump on the outskirts of Maputo, and a search is under way.

The refuse in the poor, densely populated area had risen to the height of a three-storey building, according to reports.

Half a dozen homes were destroyed and some residents in the area fled for fear of another collapse.

Fatima Belchoir, a national disaster official, said: “The mountains of garbage collapsed on the houses and many families were still inside these residences.”

Authorities are trying to help people who lost their homes, she said.

The Hulene rubbish dump is the largest such facility in Maputo. People often comb through the waste, searching for food and items to sell.

Health workers have long raised concerns about the impact of the fumes, flies and other hazards of the dump on the surrounding community. Municipal officials have previously discussed the closure of the dump.