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In Sri Lanka, Mudslides Leave at Least 13 Dead

  • Associated Press

FILE - Sri Lankan army soldiers carry out a search operation in Elangapitiya village in Aranayaka, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 19, 2016. Heavy rains pounded the central Sri Lankan region where at least three villages were swallowed by mountains of mud.

Mudslides and floods triggered by heavy rains in Sri Lanka killed at least 13 people with four others missing, a minister said Friday.

Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardana told reporters that the adverse weather conditions could escalate. The government advised people living closer to rivers and areas prone to landslides to evacuate, he said.

Leave of government workers has been canceled, he said, adding that he had asked rescue and aid organizations to stay alert for the next 72 hours.

Eight people died in separate mudslides in the Kalutara district, south of capital Colombo, while two others died in Makola, on the outskirts of the capital after a wall collapsed, officials said.

Heavy rains have lashed several parts of the country since Thursday, inundating roads and houses. Authorities closed all schools in the Sabaragamuwa province, about 90 kilometers(55 miles) east of Colombo due to the rains and floods. Heavy flooding also was reported in the country’s south.

The country’s navy deployed more than 100 sailors and 20 boats to rescue and help the affected people. The air force also sent two helicopters to rescue the marooned.

Mudslides are common during the monsoon season in the Indian Ocean tropical island. Much of Sri Lanka has been heavily deforested for export crops such as tea and rubber, leaving the countryside exposed.

In May last year, more than 100 people died when they were buried in a massive landslide in central Sri Lanka.