Death toll in Sri Lanka rises as rescue workers battle heavy rains | News | DW | 21.05.2016
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Death toll in Sri Lanka rises as rescue workers battle heavy rains

Fresh landslides in Sri Lanka have been reported as rescue workers try to reach residents in the capital stranded by floods. Poor weather conditions have hindered rescue operations, with hundreds still missing.

Landslides and flooding caused by torrential downpours have killed at least 71 people as rescuers search for more than a hundred people still missing, Sri Lanka's Disaster Management Center (DMC) said on Saturday.

A half a million people have been displaced by a week of heavy rains caused by Cyclone Roanu, which after passing through Sri Lanka continued on a destructive path towards low-lying Bangladesh.

Roanu battered Bangladesh's coastline on Saturday, killing at least 20 people and displacing nearly a half a million. Hundreds of mud and tin homes in the impoverished nation were destroyed.

Flooded capital

The heaviest rains in a quarter century have flooding Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, triggering huge landslides which buried some victims in up to 50 feet (15 meters) of mud.

Meteorologists warned that a new batch of strong downpours in certain parts of Sri Lanka on Saturday could worsen the current flood situation.

"Colombo did not receive any significant rain last night, and the water levels of the Kelani went down slightly," DMC spokesman Pradeep Kodippili told news agency AFP.

"But there were showers upstream, and we are worried that the water levels can rise again in a day."

Hundreds of small rescue boats navigated the deep flood waters in Colombo, bringing the stranded to dry ground. In the capital alone, 185,000 residents have been displaced and electricity has been shut off to avoid electrocutions.

"We fear the situation might get worse," said 28-year-old Chanuka Perera, who was rescued with her feverish infant son by an army boat.

Twenty-two out of Sri Lanka's 25 districts had been affected so far. Around 300,000 people have been moved to shelters, while a further 200,000 were staying with friends or family.

Foreign aid arrives

Assistance from other countries began arriving on Saturday, bringing much-needed medical supplies. India sent a military plane to Colombo as well as two navy ships carrying aid.

Vikas Swarup, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, tweeted pictures of two Indian naval vessels delivering supplies to Colombo.

Indian officials said they provided inflatable boats, outboard motors, diving equipment, sleeping bags and generators. Japan also delivered aid on a commercial flight, while Australia and the US have made cash donations to help victims.

rs/bw (AP, AFP)

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Search for bodies in Sri Lanka continues

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