Source: AFP Screencap
Massive landslides and flooding have left the small Asian nation of Sri Lanka in a terrible state. As of this writing, at least 101 people are confirmed dead, while several hundred thousand remain unaccounted for.
In the early stages of monsoon season, Sri Lanka is being battered with rain and heavy winds, and disaster has struck early this time around. Fifteen bodies have been pulled from the rubble in the Kegalle district, an area located about 75 minutes outside the country’s capital of Colombo. Fourteen additional lives were also lost in landsides throughout the mountainous region of Aranayake, and casualties are expected to rise in the coming weeks.
Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is leading the rescue mission throughout Aranayake’s villages, commended the stamina and bravery exhibited by those involved in the operation:
“Military personnel and medics are still digging through the rubble from the mudslide to find survivors despite the risk of further landslides in the area.”
Sri Lanka is still recovering from another natural disaster that took place just two years ago in 2014, when similar weather conditions claimed the lives of at least 16 separate individuals in a hilly tea plantation. The same county was also host to one of the biggest railway disasters in world history, when the Matara Express was struck by massive waves caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, resulting in the deaths of nearly 2,000 people.
As several family members await news regarding their loved ones, emotions are running high. “My son’s house has simply disappeared,” exclaimed one villager to media sources. The villager is presently staying at the Viyan Eliya, a Buddhist temple that now houses well over 300 shelter-seeking refugees.
Others are expressing anger and distrust, claiming that disaster management agencies did little to warn that the floods would occur, and that not enough effort was put into appropriately alerting residents.
“The Disaster Management Center does not have the resources and manpower to go door to door in the endangered areas,” said Sri Lanka Red Cross senior manager Mahieash Johnney. “It relies on getting these messages across to residents at risk from landslides by using loudspeakers and megaphones. These warning don’t always get transmitted in time.”
Meteorologists are adamantly blaming the rains on what they call a deep, low-pressure area in the Bay of Bengal, which began moving away from the island last Wednesday. While weather patterns in Sri Lanka tend to behave fiercely during the summer months, experts say it is odd to see such desolation this early in the year.
Following his tour of the disaster scenes, President Maithripala Sirisena tweeted, “The loss is devastating,” and assured citizens that officials were doing all they could to locate any missing persons. Thus far, about 300 additional military personnel have been sent forth to aid in rescue efforts.