Landslide horror

lanslideAt least Ten people have died and over 150 have been reported missing at a Sri Lankan tea plantation after a monsoon-triggered mudslide buried scores of workers and washed away their homes on a plantation, disaster officials said. Officials initially said that over 100 people had died, but have since significantly reduced the death toll and said a clearly pictured would emerge on Thursday.

The mudslide struck at around 7:30 a.m. and wiped out 120 workers’ homes at the Koslanda tea plantation. Children who left for school in the morning returned to find their clay and cement houses had been buried. Nearly 300 children were gathered at a nearby school as night fell amid further landslide threats.

Rescue workers stepped up their desperate search  for survivors  which is feared to have buried alive 100 people on a tea plantation, deploying heavy digging equipment to claw through the mud.

Witnesses spoke of hearing a noise like thunder as part of a mountainside collapsed onto the estate, burying some of the workers’ homes in 30 feet of mud and debris.

After rescuers, including soldiers, spent much of Wednesday using their bare hands to try and locate victims of the disaster in the eastern Koslanda district, military sources said five industrial excavators which are usually used to dig trenches were to join the search effort at first light.

Officials have already warned that the chances of finding survivors are slim with a senior government minister voicing fears that the death toll would reach three figures.”I don’t think there could be any survivors,” Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera told Reuters, after visiting the disaster site.

Indian High Commissioner Y K Sinha spoke to External Affairs Minister G L Peiris and offered the assistance to deal with the landslide disaster. The people living in the affected hilly area are mostly of Indian Tamil origin, descendants of workers brought to Sri Lanka from South India under British rule as cheap labor to work on tea, rubber and coffee plantations. Sri Lanka, formerly called Ceylon, is one of the world’s leading producers of tea. Ceylon tea, as it is known, is produced in the central hills, where the high altitudes and rainfall provide favorable conditions.

Sri Lanka has experienced heavy rain over the past few weeks, and the Disaster Management Center had issued warnings of mudslides and falling rocks.

There have been a number of landslides since the start of heavy rains in mid-September resulting in damage to roads, but there had been no casualties until Wednesday.

Some roads in the central districts of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Badulla were blocked on Wednesday due to landslides, limiting public transport.


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