Sri Lanka races to rescue flood victims before rain resumes

Baku, May 29, AZERTAC

Helicopters searched for people marooned four days after rain-triggered floods and mudslides inundated Sri Lankan neighborhoods and killed at least 164 people, according to the Associated Press.

With more rain expected Monday, rescuers raced to evacuate people from the most vulnerable areas. Already more than 100,000 have taken shelter in 339 relief camps set up in the south and west.

Army boats skimmed waterlogged village streets, while able-bodied flood victims waded through brackish waters to army trucks carrying relief supplies.

An air force helicopter on relief mission crash landed near Baddegama town in southern Sri Lanka on Monday. All 11 people onboard escaped unhurt. Earlier an airman died after a fall while trying to rescue a marooned person from the air.

Officials say at least 104 people are still missing since the floods hit on Friday along with cascades of red mud that swallowed village homes.

Special medical teams have been sent to the affected areas, while medicine has been sent by air to hospitals unreachable by road, said Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senarathna.

Soldiers took advantage of a lull in the rain Sunday to clear roads to reach some affected areas, said Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is heading the search and rescue mission.

The United Nations said it had joined the relief efforts and would donate water purification tablets, tents and other supplies for the displaced. India sent two shiploads of goods and some medical staff while the United States and Pakistan also promised relief supplies.

Mudslides have become common during Sri Lanka's summer monsoons, as forests across the tropical Indian Ocean island nation are cleared for export crops such as tea and rubber.

Another massive landslide a year ago killed more than 100 people in central Sri Lanka.

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