10 dead, 250 missing in Sri Lanka mudslide

2014-10-29 16:37

Colombo - A mudslide triggered by monsoon rains buried scores of workers' houses at a tea plantation in central Sri Lanka on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and leaving more than 250 missing, an official said.

The military mobilised troops to help with the rescue operation being undertaken as rain still fell in the island nation's central hills. Earth covered some of the destroyed homes to the roof, and water gushing down hillsides indicated more slides were possible.

The mudslide struck at around 07:30 and wiped out 120 workers' homes at the Meeriabedda tea plantation in Badulla district, 218km east of the capital, Colombo, said Lal Sarath Kumara, an official from the Disaster Management Centre.

By early afternoon, rescue workers had pulled out 10 bodies that were buried by the mudslide, Kumara said. More than 250 other people were missing, he said.

State broadcaster Rupavahini showed huge mounds of earth covering the homes, with only parts of the roofs visible on some houses. It also showed more muddy water gushing from the hilltops, in a sign that there could be further slides.

About 500 military personnel and civilians were looking for survivors under the earth by Wednesday evening while heavy earthmoving machines were also used in the operation, according to a local journalist at the scene. Rain fell intermittently, but was not strong enough to hamper the rescue work.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa tweeted that he has ordered officials to provide early relief and speed up the rescue work.

Most of Sri Lanka has seen heavy rain over the past few weeks, and the Disaster Management Centre had issued warnings for mudslides and falling rocks.

The monsoon season in the Indian Ocean island nation runs from October through December.

Sri Lanka, formerly called Ceylon, is one of the world's leading producers of tea. Most Ceylon tea, as it is known, is produced in the central hills, where the high altitudes and rainfall provide favorable conditions.