At least 200 families in Sri Lanka are feared buried Wednesday after rain-triggered landslides hit three villages in the island country, the Sri Lankan Red Cross said. Over 300 soldiers have been deployed to search for survivors in the villages in Aranayaka town, located in Kegalle district, 60 miles north of capital Colombo.
Sixteen bodies have been recovered and about 180 people have been rescued in the villages of Siripura, Pallebage and Elagipitya, military spokesman Brig. Jayanath Jayaweera told the Associated Press (AP). However, Reuters reported, citing disaster officials, that over 150 people are feared dead in the landslides.
About 1,141 people who escaped have taken shelter and are being treated for minor injuries at a nearby school and a Buddhist temple, government official Mahendra Jagath told the AP. Rescue efforts were hampered due to heavy fog and electricity outages.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) May 18, 2016
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) May 18, 2016
A Sri Lankan Red Cross official who attended a disaster meeting at the Aranayaka landslide site Wednesday said the death toll was likely to be higher than the official figures.
“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.
Heavy rainfall in the past three days caused severe flooding in several cities, including Colombo, where eight people have been killed, according to the Red Cross. At least 32 people have been killed in the flooding across the country, BBC reported, citing official figures.
The Meteorological Department has forecast more downpour over the next few days and rough seas for most of Sri Lanka. Schools in several parts of the country were closed Wednesday due to bad weather.