At least 10 people were killed and as many as 300 people were reported missing Wednesday after a landslide struck central Sri Lanka, engulfing several houses. The incident was triggered by heavy monsoon rains in the region.
Sri Lankan authorities deployed troops from the country’s army, air force and police to conduct rescue operations after the mudslide hit the Koslanda region, nearly 125 miles east of Colombo. The landslide, which continued for about 10 minutes, demolished about 140 houses, and the hardest hit area was reportedly the Meeriyabedda tea plantation near the town of Haldummulla. The rains reportedly also washed away sections of national highways, slowing down the movement of rescue vehicles.
“We have already rescued some people and they have been sent to hospital," Major General Mano Perera said, according to Agence France-Presse, or AFP, adding: "Some houses have been buried in 30 feet (nine meters) of mud.” But, Perera said that he was hopeful of finding survivors in the debris.
The government’s disaster management minister Mahinda Amaraweera, was on his way to the location, and said: “We are coordinating with all agencies to ensure that relief is sent as quickly as possible, but the weather is a factor that is slowing us down," AFP reported.
Sri Lanka’s disaster management center had reportedly issued warnings about landslides and falling rocks over the past week, according to The Associated Press. Footage broadcast by state-run network Rupavahini showed muddy water flowing in from the hilltops, hinting at the possibility of more landslides.
“We saw smoke around the area. Some people shouted and asked us to run away, so we ran," a survivor told Reuters.
In June, at least 22 people were killed in landslides triggered by monsoon rains in Sri Lanka, BBC reported.