COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Hundreds of boats plied deep floodwaters that have inundated thousands of homes in the Sri Lankan capital, delivering aid and rescuing the elderly and sick from rooftops as forecasters warned of more heavy rain.
The weeklong rains have caused chaos across Sri Lanka, unleashing deadly landslides and driving tens of thousands from their homes.
200 families feared dead by mudslides in Sri Lanka
8 killed, 8 still missing after floods, landslides in Sri Lanka
Since Monday, at least 58 people have died from lightning strikes, drowning, falling trees and landslides triggered by cyclonic rains that started Sunday. That includes at least 30 victims of torrential mudslides that swallowed three hillside villages in the central district of Kegalle, where hundreds were still missing.
Soldiers resumed searching for the missing Friday, but held little hope of finding survivors. The search effort was halted intermittently as continuing rain threatened to trigger more landslides.
“It’s a very difficult task, but troops will carry out their work in the hope of finding more” in the remote, disaster site about 72 kilometres (45 miles) north of Colombo, said military spokesman Brig. Jayanath Jayaweera.
The island was unlikely to get a reprieve on Friday, as the country’s meteorological department warned that rains and stormy seas were expected to continue through the day, especially in the southwest.
In the capital, electricity has been shut down in flooded areas to prevent electrocutions, and schools were closed across the country. Tens of thousands have been evacuated from homes across the island to some 594 shelters.
“Everything is gone,” said Mohomed Sabri, whose home in the Kolonnawa suburb of Colombo was completely submerged. “This … is unbelievable.”
The Indian navy said it was sending two ships with aid to Colombo. On Thursday, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera had said there was an urgent need for water purification tablets, water pumps and drinking water.