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Three villages buried, 200 families missing after Sri Lanka landslide

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Three villages have been buried in a massive landslide in Sri Lanka's Aranayake area. (file photo) ©Sri Lanka Red Cross

A massive landslide in a remote area in western Sri Lanka has buried three villages, with rescue workers still looking for 200 missing families.

The landslide struck the central Aranayake area Tuesday night following three days of heavy rain described as the most severe since 2010.

Authorities said Siripura, Pallebage and Elagipitya villages, located about 72km from the capital Colombo, were buried and that rescue operation has become difficult as electricity has been cut off.

Red Cross Director General Neville Nanayakkara said around 300-400 people are feared to have died in the Aranayaka landslide. 

Sri Lankan residents make their way through floodwaters in the suburb of Kaduwela in capital Colombo on May 17, 2016. ©AFP

Rescue operations has been further hampered as reaching the mountainous areas is difficult.

“Rescuers would have to get there by foot and start digging with their hands before we can get any heavy equipment in to the site,” said Sri Lanka Red Cross Communications Manager Mahieash Johnny.

Pradeep Kodippili, the spokesperson for the country's Disaster Management Center, said 15 bodies from two locations had been recovered.

Kodippili also said that the actual numbers of people and houses caught in the landslide were not available.

Government officials said some 35 people have so far died due to severe weather across the country.

Some 196,000 people have reportedly left their homes due to heavy rain. Early on Wednesday, some 350 people were transferred to safety during rescue operations.

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