Tue, May 20, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Birth-of-Buddha eve sees flash floods in Sri Lanka

AP , COLOMBO

Townsfolk push a bus through floodwaters in the town of Ratnapura, 100km southeast of Colombo.

PHOTO: REUTERS

A weekend of flash floods, starting on the eve the birth of Buddha was recognized, and subsequent landslides killed up to 125 people in south-central Sri Lanka, officials said.

About 150,000 people have fled their homes from the area, officials said. They are being housed in temples, schools and public buildings.

Local officials in Ratnapura, Hambabtota and Matara, reached by telephone, said 78 bodies had been recovered and that 47 others were believed killed in a landslide that wiped out an entire village, which would bring the toll to 125.

Officials said they expected that toll to rise.

In Matara, local police official Abhaya Gunawardene said an additional 16 people were missing there.

The state-run Daily News, quoting government officials, earlier had reported a death toll of 141. It was not clear whether that toll included the 16 missing people cited by Gunawardene.

Neighboring India was sending a rescue helicopter and a relief ship with medicine, food, water and health officials. The was expected to arrive later Monday, said Indian High Commission spokeswoman Reenat Sandhu.

The police chief in Ratnapura, Prasanna Nanayakkara, said road links with the capital had been restored and that water was receding from some areas. He said about a dozen police teams have been dispatched to remote areas to look for survivors.

"It appears that the worst is over for now unless it rains heavily again," he said. "Light vehicles can now pass though there are patches where we still have mud and silt."

Ratnapura district, famed for its gem mines, is home to 1 million people.

The flash floods hit the area late Saturday evening, when most residents had returned to their homes after celebrating a festival marking the birth of Buddha.

This story has been viewed 2904 times.
TOP top