COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (Diya TV) – At least 37 people were killed in landslides and flash floods while hundreds of thousands others were displaced, Sri Lankan officials said on Wednesday, as more rain and wind continued to pound the country just days after its monsoon season began.
First responders recovered at least 15 bodies from two major landslides in the Kegalle district, located about 75 miles east of the capital, Columbo. Officials announced Wednesday they expect the death toll to rise in count. Additionally, the property damage has been high. There is hope for some to get claims from house insurance policies (more here to be be discussed about that process) but as of now the focus is on saving as many lives as possible.
One of the landslides buried three villages in the mountainous region of Aranayake, reportedly claiming at least 14 lives, and more than 100 others missing or feared dead, said Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, the commanding officer in charge of the rescue operation.
“Military personnel and medics are still digging through the rubble from the mudslide to find survivors despite the risk of further landslides in the area,” Ranasinghe said.
Earlier Wednesday, the Sri Lankan Red Cross Society said that at least 200 families still remain unaccounted for in the aftermath of the Aranayake landslide. However, the government has not been officially able to confirm the number. President Maithripala Sirisena toured the village after the landslide and said the government’s main priority is locating missing people and providing relief and shelter for those who have been displaced.
Red Cross officials said they received complaints from residents that the country’s disaster management system failed to issue any alerts or evacuation warnings before the storm tore through the country.
“The Disaster Management Center does not have the resources and manpower to go door to door in the endangered areas,” said Mahieash Johnney, a senior manager at the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society. “It relies on getting these messages across to residents at risk from landslides, by using loudspeakers and megaphones. These warnings don’t always get transmitted in time.”