Landslides and floods kill 140 in Sri Lanka

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The Independent Online

Flash floods and landslides caused by the worst rains in southern Sri Lanka for half a century killed more than 140 people at the weekend and left 200,000 people homeless.

Flash floods and landslides caused by the worst rains in southern Sri Lanka for half a century killed more than 140 people at the weekend and left 200,000 people homeless.

The bodies of 37 villagers were found in the Ratnapura area, 65 miles from Colombo, after a hillside slid onto their homes. A local official said: "We are listing 47 people as missing but I am told that the chances of finding them alive is very dim." Only 16 people in the village survived, the official said. "The worst has happened, an entire village has been wiped out."

Some of the 84 people feared dead in Ratnapura were drowned in flash floods. A further 10 people were killed near Matara, on the south coast.

The state-run Rupavahini Television showed much of Ratnapura town still under 3 metres of water 24 hours after the floods. Many families took shelter in the upper floors of their homes, while others built rafts to ferry the injured and elderly to safety. Airforce helicopters and navy boats plucked people from roofs and tree tops. Sri Lanka has asked India to send speedboats and flood experts to help.

Officials said about 300 villages were badly affected, more than 100 of which could not be reached by boat because of the strong currents. The death toll is expected to rise in the marooned areas.

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