Sri Lanka mudslide death toll 27

  • 18/05/2016
Sri Lanka mudslide death toll 27

More than 150 people are feared dead after they were buried under two landslides triggered by more than three days of heavy rain in central Sri Lanka.

Rescue workers recovered 21 bodies on Wednesday (local time), bringing the official death toll to 35 while more than 100 other people remained unaccounted for.

Torrential rains forced more than 196,000 people from their homes as more than 350 people were plucked to safety during rescue operations in landslide-affected areas across the country, officials said.

Rescue efforts have focused on the town of Aranayaka, 100km northeast of the capital, Colombo, where three villages were buried late on Tuesday in the central district of Kegalle.

A Sri Lankan Red Cross official who attended a disaster meeting at the Aranayaka landslide site said it was feared the death toll was much higher than the official figures listed so far.

"At that meeting, it was revealed that around 300-400 people are feared to have died in the Aranayaka landslide," Neville Nanayakkara, director general of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, told Reuters.

More than 300 soldiers were deployed to search for survivors in the villages of Siripura, Pallebage and Elagipitya. Heavy fog and continuing rain, along with electricity outages and the instability of the ground, were complicating rescue efforts.

State broadcaster Rupavahini showed images of huge mounds of earth covering houses, while torrents of muddy water gushed from hilltops above. Villagers said 66 houses had been buried or damaged, according to local journalist Saman Bandara.

A total of 1141 people who escaped the disaster were sheltering and being treated for minor injuries at a nearby school and a Buddhist temple, according to government official Mahendra Jagath.

The same rains that unleashed the mudslides have also caused severe flooding in cities including Colombo, where tens of thousands of homes were at least partially inundated. Schools were closed due to the bad weather.

The Meteorological Department has forecast more rain and rough seas for much of the island nation.