COLOMBO, October 29 2014: A landslide buried more than 140 houses in hilly south-central Sri Lanka on Wednesday after days of heavy rain, killing at least 10 people, officials said, with hopes fading for more than 300 listed as missing.
Children who left for school in the morning returned to find their clay and cement houses in the village of Haldummulla, 190 km (120 miles) inland from the capital Colombo, had been buried.
Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said 75 children had escaped the disaster in an area famous for its tea plantations because they were in school.
“We are not sure about the others. But we are trying our best to rescue them,” Amaraweera told media.
The Disaster Management Centre said 10 bodies had been found so far, at least 300 people were missing and 150 houses buried in the village, which lies in hilly country to the south of a popular national park. One official said hopes were fading for the missing.
Rescue efforts were hampered by the threat of further landslides in the area.
Amaraweera said the landslide was at least 3 km (2 miles) long. Villagers had been advised in 2005 and 2012 to move away because of the threat of landslides, but many did not heed the warning, he said.
“I was under the rubble and some people took me out … my mother and aunt have died,” a woman who was being treated for injuries told media.
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.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa tweeted that on his instructions, military heavy machinery had been deployed to speed up search and rescue operations.
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.