At least a dozen people have been killed and hundreds of others remain missing following heavy rains that caused a massive landslide in central Sri Lanka.
Rescue workers have begun their search for more than 300 people who are either missing or unaccounted for after the huge landslide hit the village of Koslanda Wednesday morning.
Koslanda is located some 200 kilometers east of the capital, Colombo.
“The area where the landslide has been reported was mostly occupied by tea estate laborers. It is most of them who have been reported missing,” said Sarath Lal Kumara, a spokesman for the Sri Lanka Disaster Management Center (DMC).
Residents in the surrounding villages have been ordered to evacuate the area as search operations continue.
Around 500 soldiers have been dispatched to assist the affected, said Major General Mano Perera.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has directed the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Disaster Management to allocate additional relief teams to help in the search and rescue operations.
Residents and aid workers expressed grief at the widespread devastation amid fears that the death toll could be much higher.
Sri Lanka has experienced massive landslides and monsoon rains in recent years.
In 2011, flooding killed over a dozen people and displaced more than one million others in many parts of the country.
Landslides and floods also killed nearly 20 people and forced more than 150,000 others from their homes in the southern districts of Galle and Kalutara, the southeastern districts of Kegalla and Ratnapura and the central hilly areas in 2008.
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