News ≫ Rain hinders search for missing in Sri Lankan landslides

Rain hinders search for missing in Sri Lankan landslides

May 20, 2016
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ELANGAPITIYA VILLAGE, Sri Lanka – As soldiers searched Thursday for hundreds of people missing after landslides swallowed three central Sri Lankan villages, family members huddled in crowded shelters waiting for news about the fate of loved ones.

Their wait was likely to be long. Heavy rain halted the search several times during the day, and new thunderous mudslides caused already-frightened villagers to run from the shelters.

Authorities warned that conditions were still dangerous and more mudslides were possible.

Two days after the three villages of Siripura, Elangapitiya and Pallebage were hit by torrents of thick, red mud, rescuers had recovered just 18 bodies out of hundreds believed missing. The Sri Lankan Red Cross said at least 220 families were unaccounted for.

Heavy fog, electrical outages and the loose ground complicated the search in Kegalle district, about 45 miles north of Colombo.

Army Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who was coordinating search efforts, was asked whether rescuers expected to find survivors. He pointed to an area where 66 houses once stood.

“All gone with that landslide,” he said. “So I have my doubts.”

The government called it the worst natural disaster in more than two decades. Since Monday, 43 people have died from lightning strikes, floods, falling trees and landslides nationwide, including the 18 confirmed deaths in the Kegalle district, according to the Disaster Management Center.

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