Slim chances of survivors as 200 buried in Lanka landslide

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Slim chances of survivors as 200 buried in Lanka landslide
Colombo, Oct 30: Nearly 200 people are feared to have been buried alive in Sri Lanka after a deadly landslide destroyed the homes of mostly Indian-origin tea plantation workers with slim chances of any survivors being found even as India offered help to deal with the disaster.

The landslide struck yesterday triggered by heavy rains and wiped out 120 workers' homes at the Meeriabedda tea estate in the central Badulla district. "I have visited the scene and from what I saw I don't think there will be any survivors," Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said. Disaster Management Centre Assistant Director Pradeep Kodippili said according to the latest information 192 people were believed to be missing in the landslide at Meeriyabedda estate and rescue operations were underway. He said 817 displaced people were being sheltered in two camps at Ampitikanda and Koslanda.

Heavy machinery was also deployed in the search even as top officials warned that chances of finding survivors are slim, the army and police personnel were engaged in rescue operations with five teams from the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO).

Sri Lankan Army has deployed a contingent of over 500 troops from the Security Forces Headquarters to rescue the buried victims of the landslide. Together with army soldiers, Sri Lankan Air Force troops, Policemen, health teams and civil relief teams are also currently engaged in finding about 200 people believed to be buried in the mud.

Five heavy duty trench digging machines arrived at the landslide site when the rescue operations resumed today. "We are also bringing in an additional 200 troops to add to the 500 already here to carry out the search," the region's top military officer, Major General Mano Perera said. Rescue efforts were being hampered by persistent rains that have also made the surrounding hills unstable, he said. "There were no concrete structures which could have acted as air traps for victims to survive," he said.

Even the office which carries details of the area residents has been buried in the rubble, Amaraweera said. Meanwhile, Plantation Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe today said landslide warnings issued in 2011 had been disregarded by the Meeriyabadda Tea Plantation.

An investigation must be launched against the estate owners as to why they disregarded the warning issued in 2011, which has now led to many deaths, Samarasinghe said. India yesterday offered assistance to Sri Lanka to help hundreds of people affected by the landslide in Uva province of the island.

Indian High Commissioner Y K Sinha spoke to Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister G L Peiris and offered the assistance to deal with the landslide disaster which took place this morning. 

PTI

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