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200 Families Feared Buried in Sri Lanka Landslides


An elderly Sri Lankan woman is shifted on a makeshift raft at a flooded area in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, May 17, 2016. The Disaster Management Center said that 114 homes have been destroyed and more than 137,000 people have been evacuated to safe locations as heavy rains continue. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

An elderly Sri Lankan woman is shifted on a makeshift raft at a flooded area in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, May 17, 2016. The Disaster Management Center said that 114 homes have been destroyed and more than 137,000 people have been evacuated to safe locations as heavy rains continue. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

More than 200 families are reported missing in central Sri Lanka after landslides.

Heavy rains caused the slides which buried three farming villages near the town of Aranayaka in Kegalle district. The Sri Lankan Red Cross said rescuers had found 180 people so far. It also said 14 bodies were recovered.

Local civilians joined police and hundreds of soldiers in digging through the mud with their hands, sticks and shovels to search for survivors. Officials halted the operation when night came. The search and rescue effort is to re-start in the morning.

Continuing rain, heavy fog and electrical outages in the area interfered with the search work. Officials warned that the rain could cause additional landslides.

The Red Cross said that some people listed as missing may have left the area earlier after warnings of possible landslides.

One woman, 70-year-old A.G. Alice from the village of Siripura, said she did not know where any of her nine children are.

In the same village, a man said four members of his family were in the same house when the landslide hit. He said he cannot find any.

A government official said hundreds of people escaped the disaster. The official said they are being treated for minor injuries.

Villagers said they began hearing and seeing the huge piles of mud and debris crash around their homes Tuesday afternoon.

“I heard a huge sound like a plane crashing into the earth,” said 52-year-old A.G. Kamala. She had just returned to her home in Siripura village. “I opened my door. I could not believe my eyes, as I saw something like a huge fireball rolling down the mountain and again a huge sound.”

The rain has caused flooding in areas across Sri Lanka, including the country’s capital Colombo. Officials said about 135,000 Sri Lankans had to flee their homes and are now in temporary shelters.

Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Center said lightning strikes and smaller landslides also killed at least 11 people over the past few days.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Esha Sarai reported on this story for VOANews.com. Additional material for the report came from the Associated Press. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

landslide – n. the sliding down of a mass of earth and rock

mud – n. soft, wet dirt

shovel – n. a tool with a blade at the bottom used to move dirt or other materials

unaccounted for – adj. to be lost or missing

debris – n. the pieces of something left over after something has been destroyed

fireball – n. a ball of flame or fire

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