May 21, 2016 11:03 am
Updated: May 21, 2016 11:10 am

Floods, landslides kill 73 in Sri Lanka; more than 100 still missing

Sri Lankan residents wade through floodwaters in the Kolonnawa suburb of Colombo on May 20, 2016. Desperate Sri Lankans clambered onto rubber dinghies and makeshift rafts May 20 to flee their homes in the flooded capital Colombo as fresh downpours elsewhere stalled rescue efforts at disaster zones. The heaviest rains in a quarter of a century have pounded the island since last weekend, sparking huge landslides that have buried victims in up to 15 metres of mud.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s government on Saturday raised the death toll from landslides and heavy flooding around the island nation to 73, as soldiers continued searching for scores of people missing since deadly landslides struck hill country several days ago.

In the capital, Colombo, and its suburbs, thousands of homes remained inundated, though there were signs that the waters were receding. About 243,000 people remained in temporary shelters nationwide.

READ MORE: 200 families feared dead by mudslides in Sri Lanka

Soldiers looked for bodies among thick mud deposits in the central district of Kegalle, where landslides swallowed up three villages on Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is co-ordinating the search, said one body and parts of another were found Saturday. Twenty-one people have been confirmed dead from the landslides in the three villages and 123 others are missing.

Sri Lankan military personnel take part in relief and rescue efforts following a landslide in the village of Bulathkohupitiya on May 18, 2016.Rescue workers on May 18 recovered the bodies of 17 villagers buried in landslides in Sri Lanka after three days of torrential rain. The disaster hit two small villages in Kegalle, a mountainous area northeast of Colombo, and takes the overall death toll from flooding and landslides in recent days to 36.

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Ranasinghe said that another part of the same mountain crashed down Saturday, but that there were no casualties because residents had been evacuated after the first landslides.

As civilians volunteered to provide cooked food and clothing to the affected people, foreign assistance was arriving after an appeal by Sri Lanka’s foreign minister.

India and Japan sent relief items including medicine, tents, tarpaulin sheets, generators and water purifiers.

 

Japan will also send disaster management experts to help expedite relief efforts and look at ways to reduce landslide risks, the Japanese Embassy in Colombo said.

The United States has announced a three-year project to help Sri Lanka maintain supplies of safe drinking water even during times of drought and flooding.

© 2016 The Associated Press

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