‘No hope’ of mudslide survivors

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Published: Thursday 30th October 2014 by The News Editor

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There is no hope of finding survivors after a mudslide tore through a tea plantation in Sri Lanka, a senior official has warned.

There were widely conflicting reports about how many people had been buried alive under the rubble and mud at the Koslanda tea plantation.

Disaster management minister Mahinda Amaraweera estimated the number of dead in yesterday’s disaster would be fewer than 100, although villagers said the figure could easily exceed 200.

“I have visited the scene and from what I saw I don’t think there will be any survivors,” he said. “But that number is less than 100.”

Initial reports from Sri Lanka’s disaster management centre (DMC) said some 250 people were missing.

But Mr Amaraweera has cut that figure significantly, saying some people believed to have been buried were actually at work or school when the mudslide struck at 7.30am local time in the island nation’s central hills.

Heavy monsoon rains caused the mudslide, which wiped out 120 workers’ homes at the plantation in Badulla district, which is about 140 miles from Colombo, said Lal Sarath Kumara, a DMC official.

A 48-year-old truck driver who gave his name only as Raja said he lost all five members of his household – his wife, two sons, daughter-in-law and his six-month-old grandchild.

“I left for work early morning and got a call asking me to rush back because there is an earth slip near my home,” he said, weeping.

“I came back and there is no trace of my home, everyone was buried.”

About 500 military personnel and civilians resumed the rescue operation this morning after halting for the night because of rain and slippery conditions.

Mud covered many homes, in some cases leaving only the roofs visible. Water gushing down hillsides indicated more slides were possible.

Scores of children who had left for school early morning returned only to see their homes vanished without a trace along with their parents.

Most of Sri Lanka has experienced heavy rain over the past few weeks, and the DMC had issued warnings of mudslides and falling rocks. The monsoon season 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 favourable conditions.

Published: Thursday 30th October 2014 by The News Editor

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