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Sri Lanka gives up hope for 100 lost in landslide

Bharatha Mallawarachi
Associated Press

Colombo, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka performed final Buddhist rites at the site of last month’s massive landslide Thursday and ended the search for some 100 people believed to have been buried under the broken earth.

The rites were performed in memory of those missing and the search effort was halted “on the request of the relatives and people in the area because they felt there is no point in further searching for the missing people as 15 days have already passed,” said Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who had headed the rescue and search operations.

He said soldiers found 27 bodies, out of which 21 were identified, and found 21 body parts that were not identified. He also said he calculated about 100 people were missing based on details people gave in missing-persons complaints.

“People said they have made up their mind and that it will be futile searching further,” Ranasinghe said.

In recent days soldiers were able only to dig out parts of bodies that were decomposing, and relatives were unable to identify them.

The landslide triggered by days of heavy rain displaced more than 1,550 villagers who are being sheltered at schools and Buddhist temples.

During the past two weeks, heavy fog, rain, electrical outages and the loose ground in the area had hampered search operations.

Mudslides are common during the monsoon season in the Indian Ocean tropical island. Much of Sri Lanka has been heavily deforested for export crops such as tea and rubber, leaving the countryside exposed.

During heavy rains in December 2014, authorities evacuated more than 60,000 people from thousands of homes damaged or destroyed by floods or landslides. Two months before that, dozens of tea plantation workers were killed when mudslides buried their hillside homes.