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Death toll from Sri Lanka landslides rises to 35

18 May 2016 15:05



The death toll from devastating landslides triggered by massive torrential rains has risen to nearly three dozen in Sri Lanka, officials say. 

Sri Lanka’s disaster officials said on Wednesday that 19 more bodies were found in houses buried under mudslides across the South Asian country, bringing the official death toll so far to 35 people. Sixteen bodies had already been recovered by rescuers.

Officials also added that more than 150 people are feared to have been buried under landslides.

The Sri Lankan Red Cross said over 200 families were missing Wednesday and were feared buried under the mud and debris.

The disaster was triggered by more than three days of heavy raining in 19 of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts.

Sri Lankan residents wade through floodwaters as they go about their daily chores in Kelaniya suburb of the capital Colombo on May 18, 2016. (AFP Photo)

Rescue workers have focused their efforts on Aranayaka area, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of the capital, Colombo, where three villages were buried under the mudslides late on Tuesday.

Hundreds of soldiers have joined local residents digging through the mud with their hands, sticks and shovels to search for survivors.

However, bad weather conditions continue to prevent the teams from operating faster.

A Sri Lankan Red Cross official at the Aranayaka landslide site said the death toll is feared to be much higher than the official figures listed so far.

Sri Lankan commuters drive through floodwaters along an expressway in the suburb of Athurugeriya in the capital, Colombo, on May 18, 2016. (AFP photo)

Sources say the full extent of the tragedy is still unclear as anxious family members wait for news about missing loved ones.

State broadcaster showed images of huge mounds of earth covering houses.

Hundreds of people have also been plucked to safety during rescue operations in landslide-hit areas across the country over the past few hours.

According to the latest official data, the flooding has also forced nearly 200,000 people to abandon their homes.

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