Ten dead & 250 missing after mudslide in Sri Lanka

Residents stand by damaged houses in the town of Koslanda. Picture: AFP
Residents stand by damaged houses in the town of Koslanda. Picture: AFP
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AT LEAST ten people have been killed and 250 are missing following a mudslide triggered by monsoon rains which buried scores of homes in central Sri Lanka.

The country’s military mobilised troops to help with the rescue operation at the stricken tea plantation in Koslanda, a town in the country’s Badulla district, about 140 miles east of the capital Colombo.

Bad weather has been hampering the rescue operation as rain continued to fall in the area.

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa tweeted that heavy machinery was being used to speed up the rescue operation.

SP Arumugam, who works as a driver on the plantation, said he rushed there when he heard about the mudslide.

“Everything that I saw yesterday I could not see today – buildings, the temple and shops had all disappeared. I could only see mud everywhere,” he said.

The mudslide took place at about 7:30am yesterday and wiped out 120 workers’ homes at the tea plantation, said a disaster management centre spokesman.

Mud covered some of the homes up to their roofs while water gushing down hillsides indicated more slides were ­possible.

By early afternoon, rescue workers had recovered ten bodies that had been buried by the mudslide, the spokesman said.

He added that more than 250 other people were missing.

Local MP Udith Lokubandara said many parents had returned home after taking their children to school when the landslip happened.

He said: “It is a very sorry situation because there are many children who have become ­orphans.”

The area’s senior military ­official, Major General Mano Perera, said “some houses have been buried in 30ft of mud”.

Marimuttu Navaneethan, a 28-year-old shopkeeper, said he heard a loud noise and saw mud rolling down toward his home.

He and his family ran from the house, which was soon mostly covered by the mudslide. He said 65 other nearby houses were completely covered.

“A midwife was living in one house with six family members, and now all are missing except her husband. Their house was pushed down 200 metres and stopped near our home and their mango tree is now on our roof,” he said.

State broadcaster Rupavahini showed huge mounds of earth covering the houses and muddy water still gushing from the ­hilltops.

One woman who survived the mudslide said: “I was under the rubble and some people took me out. My mother and aunt have died.”

Officials say an area of about one mile has been affected by the landslide. Sections of several national highways have been washed away by the rains, reports said.

In June, monsoon rains triggered landslides in Sri Lanka that killed at least 22 people and forced thousands from their homes.

Yesterday, about 500 military personnel and civilians searched for survivors with the help of heavy earth-moving equipment, ­according to reports from the scene.

The search was later called off for the night because of rain and muddy conditions, a military spokesman said.

Most of Sri Lanka has experienced heavy rain over the past few weeks, and the disaster management centre had issued warnings of mudslides and falling rocks.

The country’s monsoon season runs from October to ­December.