Sri Lanka landslide: 38 feared dead as death toll revised down

  • Published
Media caption,
Many children were orphaned in the disaster, as Yogita Limaye reports

Rescue teams searching for bodies after a deadly landslide on a Sri Lankan tea plantation have revised the numbers of missing or dead down to 38.

Some estimates from the authorities had initially suggested as many as 300 may have perished in Wednesday's disaster.

Entire families were lost in the mudslide, officials said.

The government warned there may be more landslides due to the monsoon rains, which have also hampered rescue efforts.

The tragedy struck the Meeriyabedda tea plantation near the town of Haldummulla, about 200km (120 miles) east of the capital Colombo, on Wednesday morning.

Heavy rainfall caused part of a hillside to sheer off and crash into the tea estate, burying workers' homes in nine metres (30ft) of mud.

Rescue teams are still trying to recover bodies, with soldiers using mechanical diggers and sniffer dogs to root through the debris.

So far six bodies have been recovered.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Much of Sri Lanka has been lashed by heavy rain over the past few weeks

There was confusion over the initial casualty figures because many of those feared dead had actually been at work or school when their homes were destroyed, a police official told the AFP news agency.

The recent rains have caused problems across the country, with sections of several national motorways being washed away.

In June, monsoon rains triggered landslides in Sri Lanka that killed at least 22 people.

The rains are caused by winds in the Indian Ocean and South Asia. They bring about wet and dry seasons in much of the region, and have a large impact on local ecosystems.

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