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37 dead, 150 more feared buried in Sri Lanka landslide

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COLOMBO — At least 37 people have been killed and over 150 feared buried after they were buried under two landslides triggered by more than three days of heavy rain in central Sri Lanka, disaster officials said on Wednesday as rescuers raced to find survivors and recover the dead.

President Maithripala Sirisena flew to a central tea-growing area where images taken from a helicopter showed floodwaters engulfing entire villages and forested hills deluged with reddish mud.

“The loss is devastating,” the President posted on Twitter.

The Disaster Management Centre’s (DMC) updated toll came after bodies were pulled out of the mud in the central village of Aranayake and neighbouring Bulathkohupitiya.

“A total of 37 people have been killed, 28 wounded … in weather-related incidents in the past three days,” DMC spokesman Pradeep Kodippili said.

The President met with people who had lost family members as well as seen their homes destroyed.

Mr Sirisena has ordered troops to help evacuate people living on slopes or in flood-hit areas, while the navy and the air force have also been called in to help with relief operations.

In the area worst hit by landslides, 134 people were still unaccounted for.

“We have got complaints from relatives about their loved ones missing,” a police officer in the area said.

In total 155 people are still missing.

Meanwhile, about 150 people living above the landslide-hit area have been rescued, military spokesman Jayanath Jayaweera told reporters.

“Army commandos rescued all of them this morning,” Mr Jayaweera said, adding that 266 troops in total had been deployed for relief and rescue operations in the worst-affected central district of Kegalle.

The 300 millimetres of rain since Saturday had also washed away roads and caused widespread damage, making it impossible to get earth-moving equipment in.

“The rescue workers, even right now, they’re just digging from their hands, in order to find people, or at this time some bodies,” Red Cross spokesman Mahieash Johnny said.

Police said many residents had fled the tea-growing and farming area before the landslides hit.

More than 350,000 people have been hit by flooding in Sri Lanka and 223,000 are sheltering in state-run welfare centers.

AFP

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Far-West Province has high potential: Minister Bhatta

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BAITADI— Minister for Industry, Tourism, Forests and Environment of Far-West Province Maya Bhatta has said that Far-West Province has high potentials for development.

At an orientation programme for journalists in Baitadi on Saturday, Bhatta said that the Far-West Province has high chance for religious tourism.

On the occasion, Province Minister Bhatta feted Far-West Provincial Chairman of National Association of Tourism Journalists (NATOJ) Amar Raj Bhattarai and newly-elected Chairman of Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) Baitadi chapter Mahesh Prasad Awasthi.

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