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Another landslide in Sri Lanka as search operations abandoned for relief work

Updated May 22, 2016

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Relief workers distribute aid to flood victime in Wellampitiya on the outskirts of Colombo. ─ AP
Relief workers distribute aid to flood victime in Wellampitiya on the outskirts of Colombo. ─ AP

COLOMBO: Another landslide was reported from the Aranayake area on Saturday in the Kegalle district in the aftermath of massive rescue and relief operations, to deal with the two major landslides that occurred following recent torrential rains that wiped out three villages in the central hills.

As the military announced that it would be halting earlier search operations that continued for the past few days following the first Aranayake landslide, the death toll is believed to be about 140 people. The number of casualties from Saturday’s landslide in Aranayake were not immediately known.

Mutilated human remains continue to appear from time to time at landslide hit Aranayake areas, according to army Spokesman Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera.

Troops of the 14 Division used trucks and battle tanks in their bid to trace and rescue victims. At many places, people are still in locations such as rooftops and tree tops, sources said.

By Saturday morning, army troops had rescued, evacuated and relocated an estimated 46,210 people, using 56 boats drawn from the army and civilians. The estimated number of missing in Aranayake had risen to 141 according to Brig Jayaweera.

In Wellampitiya in the north-eastern part of Colombo, streets are still under water, though River Kelani is receding.

In the past 24 hours, the Sri Lankan army has distributed 60,000 cooked meal packets in Wellampitiya, Kolonnawa and Kaduwela. The priority of the government currently is to prevent the outbreak of diseases, sources said.

According to agencies, foreign aid began to arrive on a military plane from India and a commercial flight from Japan. The Indian government has provided inflatable boats, outboard motors, diving equipment, medical supplies, electricity generators and sleeping bags, officials said. Two Indian naval ships arrived on Saturday at the port in Colombo, while Australia and the United States have made cash donations to help victims.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2016