A landslide buried more than 140 houses in hilly south-central Sri Lanka on Wednesday following days of heavy rain, The Huffington Post reports. The landslide was at least 3 km (2 miles) long and killed 10 people, officials said, with more than 300 still listed as missing.
“We don’t know how many people are under the soil,” said Udaya Kumara, assistant director at the Disaster Management Center, who is responsible for the area where the landslide hit. “I think more than 100 people will be dead.”
Students who left for school early Wednesday returned to their village of Haldummulla – 190 km (120 m) inland from the capital Colombo – to find their clay and cement houses completely buried. According to Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, a total of 75 children escaped the sweep because they were in school.
“We are not sure about the others. But we are trying our best to rescue them,” Amaraweera said.
So far, the Disaster Management Center said 10 bodies had been uncovered, at least 300 people were missing, and 150 houses were buried in the village, which is known for its tea plantations.
“I was under the rubble and some people took me out … my mother and aunt have died,” a woman who was being treated for injuries told media.
Rescue efforts have been hindered due to the threat of further landslides as rain continued to fall in the area, situated south of a popular national park. In addition, several roads in the central districts of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Badulla were blocked, limiting public transport.
Previously, residents had been advised by the National Building Research Organization to leave the village because of the probability of landslides.
“In 2009, we had a discussion with the people in that area, but they were not willing to move from their houses,” said R. M. S. Bandara, an official with the landslide research division of the National Building Research Organization. “We gave the instructions to the people that if you don’t go, you will have problems. They didn’t listen.”
Bandara added that a bulletin was issued on Tuesday around 7 p.m., warning locals that a landslide could happen in the area. But the message never reached them, possibly because of a lack of telephone connectivity in the area.
Since the start of heavy rains in mid-September, there have been a number of landslides in the area, resulting in damage to roads, but no casualties up until now.