COLOMBO: At least 100 people feared dead in a devastating landslide triggered by rains that struck the homes of Indian-origin plantation workers in central Sri Lanka, prompting the deployment of the army for rescue operations.
Disaster relief officials said some 8 dead bodies have been recovered at Haldummulla in the central Badulla district.
However, the unofficial figures said the number of bodies recovered was 16.
"The number missing is much less than we feared," Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said.
Early reports said that at least 300 people could have been killed in the disaster.
The landslide occurred as part of a mountain collapsed on a line of homes of plantation workers of Indian-origin early this morning after torrential rains lashed the area.
The government deployed the army to rescue the trapped residents who were believed to have been buried 30 feet deep in the mud. President Mahinda Rajapaksa had also ordered the security forces to deploy their machinery to the affected area.
The military said at least 300 troops had been deployed in addition to the police and the airforce.
The National Building Research Centre issued landslide warnings on a number of surrounding areas.
Sarath Lal Kumara, a top disaster relief official, said that rescue work came to a halt by evening as more rain prevailed in the areas concerned.
Most of Sri Lanka has been experiencing heavy rain over the past few weeks, and the Disaster Management Centre had issued warnings of mudslides and falling rocks.