Sri Lanka mudslide deaths passes 150 mark as more bodies found

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Sri Lankan villagers cross a landslide site as military rescue workers and villagers search for survivors in Athweltota village in Kalutara on Sunday. (AFP / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI)
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Sri Lankan villagers watch as military rescue workers search for survivors at the site of a mudslide in Bellana village in Kalutara. (AFP)
Updated 28 May 2017

Sri Lanka mudslide deaths passes 150 mark as more bodies found

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lankan rescuers on Sunday pulled out more bodies that were buried by enormous mudslides as the death toll in the disaster climbed to 151, with 111 others missing.
Although the weather has cleared, more rains are forecast for Monday, threatening to bring further misery to over 100,000 people displaced in western and southern regions of the island nation that were lashed by two days of torrential rains.
Taking advantage of a lull in rain, soldiers cleared road access to most of the affected areas while others were reachable by boat, said Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the search and rescue mission. People waded in knee-deep floodwaters to get to army trucks transporting relief supplies and taking away those waiting to be evacuated.
Ranasinghe said he didn’t expect to find any more survivors.
Health minister Dr. Rajitha Senarathna said 102,218 displaced people were being sheltered in 339 relief centers. Special medical teams have been sent to the affected areas, while medicine has been sent by air to hospitals for which access has been cut off, he said.
Access roads are still blocked in some areas due to flooding, and fuel shortages have been reported, Senarathna said.
The UN said it was assisting in relief efforts in response to a government appeal. It also promised to donate water purification tablets, tents and other supplies for the displaced. India sent a shipload of goods, while the United States and Pakistan also promised to send relief supplies.
Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology warned that heavy downpours were expected in some of the affected areas.
Mudslides have become common during the monsoon season in Sri Lanka, a tropical Indian Ocean island nation, as land has been heavily deforested to grow export crops such as tea and rubber. Last May, a massive landslide killed more than 100 people in central Sri Lanka.


Khalilzad upbeat on chances for intra-Afghan peace talks

Updated 26 min 28 sec ago

Khalilzad upbeat on chances for intra-Afghan peace talks

WASHINGTON: Recent prisoner releases and a relatively low level of violence may bode well for the start of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said on Monday.
“We are in a good place,” Khalilzad told reporters, saying the Afghan government had released 2,400 to 2,500 Taliban prisoners since Feb. 29 and the militant group has freed more than 400 detainees in return. “We’ll have challenges and difficulties but we are optimistic that finally we’re moving forward to the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations.”