Hundreds of people have either died or gone missing amid severe flooding and mudslides in Sri Lanka. Authorities are now appealing for international help.
At least 100 people were reported dead and more than 110 missing as record rainfall hit parts of the country on Friday, prompting calls by the government for international aid.
The flooding was caused by the bursting of river banks. Unusually heavy rain triggered more than a dozen landslides that buried homes on mountain slopes.
The monsoon has caused over 60,000 people to flee their homes in southern and western Sri Lanka in addition to more than 2,000 who were evacuated to safer locations, according to the official Disaster Management Center (DMC).
"There are at least five landslides reported in several places in Kalutara," said a police spokesman of the country's worst-hit district, according to the Reuters news agency. "Rescue operations are still taking place."
Most of the village of Wehangalla near Agalawatte, 98 kilometers (60 miles) south of the capital, Colombo, has been inundated and floodwaters swamped houses up to the roof. The villagers complain that government aid had not reached them.
A military-led relief effort was underway in the island’s western and southern regions, but some interior villages remained out of reach.
The disaster has forced the South Asian country to appeal to the US and other countries for help. Indian medical teams and emergency relief arrived in Sri Lanka on Saturday. Another Indian ship carrying aid was due to arrive on Monday.
Worst flooding in years
Rain was expected to continue through the night, though "at a lesser intensity," according to meteorological department chief S.R. Jayasekera.
Friday's flooding was the worst the country has experienced since 2003, when 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes were destroyed after a comparable monsoon. Last May, another massive landslide killed more than 100 people in the central part of the country.
Mudslides have become increasingly common in the country following rainstorms, as land has become deforested to grow crops like tea and rubber.
A 2015 World Resources Institute (WRI) report said that river flooding could affect 21 million people and expose $96 billion (85 billion euros) in GDP worldwide each year. By 2030, those numbers could grow to 54 million people and $521 billion in GDP affected every year, according to WRI. One of the hardest-hit areas is predicted to be South Asia, a region where more than 9.5 million people are already being affected every year by floods.
shs, blc/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters)