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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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Deadly Nipah virus claims 12 in Indian state of Kerala

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NEW DELHI — At least 12 people in India have died from a rare deadly and contagious virus known as Nipah virus, according to news reports.

Four deaths were reported on Monday, including of a nurse who treated the three initial infections at the EMS Cooperative Hospital in Perambra. The death of the nurse triggered panic among hospital staff who have had their leaves cancelled to treat the sick, Hindustan Times reported

Two deaths were reported from Kozhikode and four from Malappuram district. At least six persons are in critical condition and another 20 are under observation, state health officials said.

It was recorded in Siliguri district in West Bengal in 2001 and is being suspected in Kerala now, according to media reports

Humans get infected by consuming fruit or date-palm sap contaminated by infected bats but while human-to-human transmission through body fluids is rare.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Nipah virus infection is an emerging disease that was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore.

The virus is thought to naturally infect fruit bats (of the genus Pteropus), but it can also infect pigs and other domesticated animals, as well as humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus can also spread from person to person.

CDC says Nipah virus can cause an inflammation of the brain known as encephalitis. Symptoms can include fever and headache, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and confusion. People who are infected with the virus may fall into a coma within 48 hours of showing symptoms, the CDC says.

The virus can be highly lethal, with an average fatality rate of around 75 percent, according to the WHO.

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