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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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NAC aims to bring more tourists

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KATHMANDU — Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) — the national flag carrier which bought two wide-body aircrafts — is exploring new destinations in Europe, North America and South East Asia to bring in more tourists to the country.

The NAC, with the new destinations, expects to increase its business and carry 400,000 tourists on board the NAC planes to Nepal every year.

The NAC’s move is expected to serve largely for the government’s announcement to mark 2020 as Nepal Visit Year.

The NAC is also planning to procure narrow-body planes that would make regional flights while the wide-body planes would fly to the new international destinations.

For the new destinations, the NAC has appointed issue manager.

With the agreement, the NAC planes would make flights to 14 destinations in a week. If things go as planned, the NAC planes would fly to Narita and Tokyo in Japan, easing the tourists visiting Nepal from there.

After getting approval from Japan and South Korea for flights, the inclusion in the significant safety concern list by the EU to Nepal would remove automatically while the flights to South Korea shall open up the golden door for Nepal Airlines.

South Korea is regarded as the safest country in the world in terms of civil aviation. Likewise, the ICAO has already removed Nepal from its blacklist.

Furthermore, the NAC is preparing to operate flights to bring in tourists from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Similarly, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari has directed the NAC for announcing new business plans by targeting the Indian and Chinese tourists, realizing the crucial role of the national flag carrier to make the Nepal Visit Year 2020 a success.

“Top priority has been given to the NAC as it is the major basis to bring in tourists,” Minister Adhikari shared.

Likewise, Minister Adhikari shared that expansion of services and facilities of the Tribhuvan International Airport has been prioritized.

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