Over 200 people were on Wednesday feared buried in massive landslides in Sri Lanka following three days of torrential rains that have triggered landslips and floods, killing nearly 40 people, with rescuers running against time to find survivors under mounds of mud.
As many as 17 bodies were recovered by the rescuers, digging through the mud with their hands, sticks and shovels to search for survivors.
The deceased were villagers whose houses were buried by the mudslides that hit two villages in Kegalle, a mountainous area northeast of Colombo, Tuesday evening, military spokesman Brig. Jayanath Jayaweera said.
The fresh recovery of bodies takes the overall death toll to 36 from flooding and landslides in the past three days that have marooned 81,216 families or 3,32,254 people.
Around 300 soldiers deployed for the rescue mission also saved some 180 people trapped in Aranayake village besides recovering 13 bodies from the area, Jayaweera said.
Samsara hill in the village of Elangapitiya at Aranayake was hit by the earth-slip as a result of the bad weather experienced in the recent days.
SHA Faizal, a state official, said that 1,041 people from the area have been housed in a camp.
In the other village, Bulathkohupitiya, four bodies were recovered.
The affected villages are located in the central Kegalle district, about 72 kilometres from here.
Disaster Management Centre spokesman Pradeep Kodippili said the district was prone to landslides and many people from the area had fled their homes after the rains.
Some 220 families are feared buried by rain-triggered mudslides in three villages – Siripura, Pallebage and Elagipitya – in Kegalle, according to the Sri Lanka Red Cross.
“We believe that at least 150 people have disappeared.
They have found 16 bodies so far,” Elangapitiye Rathanajothi, a Buddhist monk and an eye witness said.
However, Kodippili said the death toll was not expected to rise significantly.
Local TV channels showed images of huge mounds of earth covering houses as torrents of muddy water flowed from hilltops above.
At least 66 homes were buried due to Tuesday’s earth slip in Kegalla, disaster relief officials said.
Incessant rains have also caused severe flooding in cities including the capital Colombo.
Schools were closed due to the bad weather.
Some 22 districts of the island were hit by the bad weather, heavy rains which were over 200 millimetres in most