200 families feared buried following mudslides in Sri Lanka
Published 18/05/2016 | 08:41
Rescuers are searching for more than 200 families feared buried by rain-triggered mudslides in three villages in central Sri Lanka.
A military spokesman said 16 bodies have been recovered so far, adding that around 180 people are known to have survived the landslides that hit their villages on Tuesday night.
The Sri Lankan Red Cross said at least 200 families are still missing from the villages of Siripura, Pallebage and Elagipitya in Kegalle District, about 45 miles north of Colombo.
A total of 1,141 people who escaped the disaster are being treated for minor injuries at a nearby school and a Buddhist temple, according to the government.
The rains have also caused severe flooding in cities including Colombo, the capital, where tens of thousands of homes were at least partially inundated. Schools have been closed due to the bad weather.
Sri Lanka's disaster management centre had reported 11 deaths from lightning strikes and smaller landslides elsewhere in the Indian Ocean island nation on Monday and Tuesday. Nearly 135,000 people across the country have been displaced and are being housed in temporary shelters.
Officials warned that more landslides and lightning strikes could occur in the countryside, as more rain is forecast along with rough seas along the coasts.
Mudslides are common in Sri Lanka during the monsoon season, with heavy deforestation to clear land for agriculture leaving the countryside exposed.
During heavy rains in December 2014, Sri Lankan authorities evacuated more than 60,000 people from thousands of homes damaged or destroyed by floods or landslides. Two months before that, dozens of tea plantation workers were killed when mudslides buried their hillside homes.