73 dead, scores missing in weeklong Sri Lanka storms

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s government on Saturday raised the death toll from landslides and heavy flooding around the island nation to 73, as soldiers continued searching for scores of people missing since deadly landslides struck hill country several days ago.

In the capital, Colombo, and its suburbs, thousands of homes remained inundated, though there were signs that the waters were receding. About 243,000 people remained in temporary shelters nationwide.

Soldiers looked for bodies among thick mud deposits in the central district of Kegalle, where landslides swallowed up three villages on Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who is coordinating the search, said one body and parts of another were found Saturday. Twenty-one people have been confirmed dead from the landslides in the three villages and 123 others are missing.

Ranasinghe said that another part of the same mountain crashed down Saturday, but that there were no casualties because residents had been evacuated after the first landslides.

As civilians volunteered to provide cooked food and clothing to the affected people, foreign assistance was arriving after an appeal by Sri Lanka’s foreign minister.

India and Japan sent relief items including medicine, tents, tarpaulin sheets, generators and water purifiers.

Japan will also send disaster management experts to help expedite relief efforts and look at ways to reduce landslide risks, the Japanese Embassy in Colombo said.

The United States has announced a three-year project to help Sri Lanka maintain supplies of safe drinking water even during times of drought and flooding.

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