Floods and landslides in Sri Lanka kill at least 150 people

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  • As US Mississippi shooting leaves eight dead

Landslides and floods in Sri Lanka have killed at least 151 people and the country faces the risk of more mudslides as torrential rains continue.

More than 100 people are still missing after the worst rains in the Indian Ocean island since 2003. The state-run National Building Research Organization warned people in seven out of the country’s 25 districts on Sunday to evacuate from unstable slopes if rains continued for the next 24 hours.

The meteorology department of Meteorology said there could be heavy rainfalls of above 100 millimetres in central Sri Lanka within the next 36 hours.

The death toll has risen to 151, while 111 people are still reported missing and 95 injured, according to the state-run Disaster Management Center. Nearly 500,000 people have been affected by the disaster, the worst since the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, and the downpours have displaced more than 100,000.

People in the town of Agalawatte said they were losing hope of water levels falling soon. “All access to our village is cut off. A landslide took place inside the village and several houses are buried. But nobody could go to that place,” resident Mohomed Abdulla, 46, told Reuters. Agalawatte, a town in western coastal district of Kalutara, 74km (46 miles) from the capital, Colombo, has recorded 47 deaths and 62 people are missing.

Rescue efforts are hampered by lack of drinking water, lack of electricity and continued rain. Reuters witnessed some people stranded on the upper floors of their homes and some houses were flooded up to roof level. Civilians and relief officials, sailing in boats, distributed food, water and other essentials.

Sri Lanka has already appealed for international assistance from the United Nations and neighbouring countries.

Some areas in the southern coastal district of Galle, popular with foreign tourists, have not received relief materials because of a lack of access.

“My entire village is cut off and nobody can come to this village,” CM Chandrapla, 54, told Reuters over the phone from the tourist village of Neluwa. “There are no supplies for the past two days. Water has gone above three-storey buildings and people survive by running on to higher ground.“

Sri Lankan military and rescue teams have used boats and helicopters, but they said access to some areas was very difficult. Military spokesman Roshan Senevirathne said more than 2,000 military personnel had been deployed to help the police and civilian agencies.

The wettest time of the year in Sri Lanka’s south is usually from May to September. Sri Lankan meteorology officials said the rains were the worst since 2003 and they expected more in the coming days.

In the meantime, an overnight shooting in the US state of Mississippi has left eight people dead, including a local deputy sheriff, police say.

The shootings took place in three separate locations in Lincoln County, south Mississippi.

A male suspect, named in local media as Willie Cory Godbolt, was detained by police on Sunday morning.

Authorities say it is too early to consider any possible motive behind the killings.

Mr Godbolt’s mother-in-law, two other relatives, and deputy sheriff William Durr were found dead at the scene of the first shooting in Bogue Chitto, reports said.

The next shooting took place in Brookhaven, where “the bodies of two juvenile males were located”, police said.

The third crime scene was in East Lincoln, where a man and woman were killed.

Willie Godbolt spoke to local paper The Clarion-Ledger after he was detained.

He said he was “sorry” and “ain’t fit to live, not after what I done”.

He said he was in conversation with his wife and her family “about me taking my children home” when someone called the police.

His stepfather-in-law, Vincent Mitchell, told AP news agency that Mr Godbolt’s wife and two children had been staying with him after she left her husband.

Mr Godbolt opened fire after the deputy sheriff arrived, Mr Mitchell added.

A 16-year-old, believed to have been taken hostage by the suspect, was safe, The Daily Leader reported.

Mississippi governor Phil Bryant called the incident a “senseless tragedy”.

“Every day, the men and women who wear the badge make some measure of sacrifice to protect and serve their communities. Too often, we lose one of our finest,” he said in a statement.

Mr Durr, the deputy sheriff killed in the shootings, was described as a “mild mannered officer” who liked making people smile.

In a 2014 interview with The Daily Leader, the 36-year-old said he also worked as a ventriloquist, doing puppet shows for children’s groups.

Guardian with additional report from BBC

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