More than 200 families in central Sri Lanka were missing Wednesday after massive landslides triggered by torrential rains crushed three villages the night before, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society said.
The slides hit the villages of Siripura, Pallebage and Elagipitya in the Aranayake area of Kegalle District.
Citing military spokesman Brig. Jayanath Jayaweera, The Associated Press reports that “16 bodies have already been recovered and about 180 people have been rescued from the enormous piles of mud unleashed at around 5 p.m. [local time] Tuesday.”
A Sri Lankan army official, Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe, who is in charge of rescue operations in Aranayake, said there was “no information” yet about 75 people, and that many displaced villagers were sheltering in makeshift camps, according to the BBC.
“There are around 1,100 people now in the four camps we have set up,” he told the BBC.
The Red Cross said in a statement that it had dispatched two rescue crews to help in the search for survivors. “Electricity was cut off completely last night making it difficult for rescue teams to reach the locations,” the statement read.
“I heard a huge sound like a plane crashing into the earth,” said 52-year-old A.G. Kamala, according to the AP. “I opened my door. I could not believe my eyes, as I saw something like a huge fireball rolling down the mountain and again a huge sound.”