Massive landslides triggered by torrential rains crashed down onto three villages in the central hills of Sri Lanka. More than 200 families were missing Wednesday and feared buried under the mud and debris, the Sri Lankan Red Cross said.
Sixteen bodies have already been recovered, and about 180 people have been rescued from the enormous piles of mud unleashed at around 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to military spokesman Brig. Jayanath Jayaweera.
Villagers recalled hearing and seeing the torrents of muddy water, tree branches and debris crashing down around their homes.
“I heard a huge sound like a plane crashing into the earth,” said 52-year-old A.G. Kamala, who had just returned to her house in Siripura village when the landslides hit. “I opened my door. I could not believe my eyes, as I saw something like a huge fireball rolling down the mountain and again a huge sound.”
More than 300 soldiers were joined by local residents digging through the mud with their hands, sticks and shovels to search for survivors in the farming villages of Siripura, Pallebage and Elagipitya in Kegalle District, about 45 miles north of Colombo, Jayaweera said. Heavy fog and continuing rain, along with power outages and the instability of the ground, complicated the rescue efforts.
Some 220 families were reported missing, the Sri Lankan Red Cross said in a statement. Officials could not give the village populations, but such villages typically include about 1,000 to 1,500 residents each. (AP)
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