Sri Lanka Confirms 132 Missing in Worst Disaster Since Tsunami

  • Rains, floods mount as depression turns to cyclonic storm
  • Island-wide death toll at 63 as Colombo suburbs submerged

Rescuers confirmed that 132 villagers are feared buried by landslides this week in central Sri Lanka, according to Mahieash Johney, a spokesman for the Red Cross.

Authorities, who are continuing the search, have also raised the island-wide death toll to 63 as a depression that engulfed the island earlier this week turned into a cyclonic storm. Schools across the South Asian island were ordered shut on Friday as floodwaters submerged suburbs of the capital Colombo, including around the nation’s parliament.

“Landslide wise, this is the biggest toll in recent history," Johney said. “It’s also the biggest natural disaster across the island since the tsunami.”

While cyclonic storm Roanu in the Bay of Bengal is moving away from the island, strong windy conditions are expected across the country and its shoreline, according to the weather department. It predicted a high possibility of sudden downpours in southwestern Sri Lanka.

“We thought the rains will ease up but another system is growing, creating chaos in the response process,” Johney said.

The Red Cross and other authorities were short of resources such as boats that have become essential to pluck out residents to safety in areas north of the capital, as rivers continue to breach their banks, he said.

In October 2014, about 35 people went missing following a landslide on a tea estate in a district adjoining Kegalle. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 30,000 people on Sri Lanka.

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