A foul-smelling, thick cloud of smoke engulfed Vendipalayam and a number of nearby residential colonies on Sunday night as heaps of garbage in the Erode Corporation's dump yard caught fire.

The flames spread quickly to most parts of the yard despite the efforts made by the fire and rescue services personnel along with workers from the civic body to put out the fire.

While miscreants are suspected to be behind this, residents say garbage heaps are at times set on fire by the workers themselves to make room for fresh loads of waste.

The smoke has put thousands of residents in the area into untold hardship. Many of the elderly and children in the area have developed breathing problems due to the hazardous smoke emanating from the burning waste, residents say.

The town generates over 100 tonnes of garbage every day and it is dumped in the yard without proper treatment.

People have appealed to the civic body to take steps to implement the Solid Waste Management Programme properly and treat the waste scientifically before dumping in the yard.

The civic body should implement the door-to-door collection and segregate the waste at source.

Steps should be taken up to turn the biodegradable waste into manure. The non-biodegradable waste should be disposed using scientific landfill methods, they demanded.

Meanwhile, officials said that workers from the civic body and the fire-fighters had managed to control the flames.

Steps would be taken to prevent fires in the dump yard in the future, they said.