A rubbish dump landslide in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo has killed at least 16 people and injured over a dozen, a military spokesman and hospital officials said this morning.

Emergency workers are digging into the mountain of trash in search of survivors.

The estimated 91m dump collapsed after flames engulfed it late yesterday, the island nation's traditional new year's day, and witnesses said around 100 houses could have been buried.

The death toll rose to 16 as more bodies were discovered this morning, army spokesman Roshan Senivirathna said.

At least four teenagers were among the dead, a nurse at the main Colombohospital told Reuters.

Rescue operations are under way with soldiers using heavy equipment to remove the garbage.

Police said about 145 houses had been damaged, but they did not say how many had been buried.

Residents of the area, mostly living in shanties, have been demanding the removal of the dump saying it was causing health issues.

The government had planned to remove it soon under an infrastructure plan.