Torrential rains have sent landslides cascading over three villages in Sri Lanka, and at least 200 families were feared buried under the mud Wednesday, the Sri Lankan Red Cross says. Sixteen bodies have already been recovered and about 180 people have been rescued from the enormous piles of mud and debris unleashed at around 5pm Tuesday, according to a military spokesman. Hundreds of soldiers have been deployed to search for survivors in the villages in Kegalle District, about 45 miles north of Colombo, the capital, the spokesman says. Heavy fog and electricity outages, as well as the instability of the ground, are complicating rescue efforts, reports the AP.
State broadcaster Rupavahini showed images of huge mounds of earth covering houses, while muddy torrents of water gushed from hilltops above. Villagers said 66 houses had been buried or damaged, according to a local journalist. Some 1,141 people who escaped the disaster were sheltering and being treated for minor injuries at a nearby school and a Buddhist temple, officials say. The same rains that unleashed the mudslides have also caused severe flooding in cities including Colombo. The country's disaster management center has reported 11 deaths from electrocution and smaller landslides elsewhere in the island nation in the past few days. (Read more Sri Lanka stories.)