The search for dozens of missing people thought to be buried in a landslide in Sri Lanka was put on hold Thursday because of heavy rain. The delay disheartened those who had hoped to continue looking for survivors among the tons of mud that engulfed a tea plantation a day earlier in the village of Haldummulla, 190 kilometers (120 miles) from the capital city of Colombo, according to the AFP.
Authorities said the decision to suspend the search had to do with concerns over the threat of more mudslides. "We are suspending the search operation because it is not safe to work in this rain," Major General Mano Perera, the region's top military officer, told reporters. "We hope to start work tomorrow morning if the weather improves."
Perera said searchers were unable to recover any survivors or bodies on Thursday. As more time has passed since the mudslide occurred, the prospect of finding anyone alive under the debris has waned, in part because the tin-roofed homes that were buried in the mud would have been too weak to create air pockets for people to stay alive, authorities have said.
Officials said earlier Thursday that they were skeptical any survivors would be found, but they cut the estimated death toll from 300 people on Wednesday to more than 100 Thursday. Initial reports said that around 150 homes were buried in the landslide that stretched for 3 kilometers and was triggered by heavy monsoon rains, however officials later indicated that about 63 homes were destroyed. "Everything that I saw yesterday I could not see today -- buildings, the temple and shops had all disappeared. I could only see mud everywhere," P. Arumugam, who works as a driver on the plantation, told the Associated Press.
Scores of children who had left for school the morning of the landslide returned to find their homes and parents gone. Many of the 227 people who survived the landslide because they were away from their homes when it struck spent the night at two nearby schools.