COLOMBO:At least 34 people were killed in landslides and flash floods and hundreds of thousands were displaced, Sri Lankan officials said on Wednesday, as torrential rains and gusting winds continued to lash the country just days after the beginning of the monsoon season.Rescue workers recovered at least 15 bodies from two major landslides in the Kegalle district, about 75 miles east of the capital, Colombo, said Pradeep Kodippili, a spokesman for the Disaster Management Center of SriLanka. Officials said the death toll from the flooding was likely to rise.
One of the landslides buried three villages in the mountainous region of Aranayake, claiming at least 13 lives with hundreds still missing on Wednesday.The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society said that 200 families remained unaccounted for after the Aranayake landslide, though Mr. Kodippili said the government was unable to confirm that figure.Meteorologists had predicted a stronger than average monsoon season in Sri Lanka this year, the effects of a waning El Niño. Though the tropical island nation in the Indian Ocean frequently experiences intense monsoons and flooding, this year’s devastation was unusually fierce for so early in the rainy season.
The Sri Lanka Meteorological Department said that a deep low-pressure area in the Bay of Bengal that had become a tropical depression by Wednesday had caused the rains, but that it was moving away from the island.The Sri Lanka Red Cross was managing one of at least four camps near the Aranayake landslide to provide relief to survivors, said Mahieash Johney, a senior manager with the organization who was running one of the relief operations.The Red Cross said 19 of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts had experienced flash flooding, a result of ceaseless rains across most parts of the island since Monday.
Three hundred members of the military were deployed, including elite commandos, medics and detection dogs, in a huge rescue operation to find survivors in Aranayake early on Wednesday. Thirteen bodies were recovered from the rubble, a military spokesman said, adding that most of the victims had been buried in their homes by the mudslide Tuesday night.By early Wednesday morning, the Disaster Management Center had recorded 23 injuries related to flash flooding in the southwestern parts of the island. The government shut down schools in two of the worst affected provinces. Some parts of Colombo also suffered flooding.