Hundreds Search for Survivors of Deadly Sri Lankan Mudslide

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KOSLANDA, Sri Lanka - Hundreds of desperate villagers clawed through the wreckage of a deadly landslide Thursday, defying orders after a top disaster official said there was no chance of finding more survivors. There were conflicting reports of how many people were missing in the slide, which struck Wednesday morning at a high-elevation tea plantation in Sri Lanka's central hills. Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said the number of dead at the Koslanda plantation would be fewer than 100. But Sri Lanka's Disaster Management Center, which Amaraweera oversees, reported 190 people missing. Villagers said the death toll could easily exceed 200.

"I have visited the scene and from what I saw I don't think there will be any survivors," Amaraweera told The Associated Press on Thursday. Heavy monsoon rains caused the mudslide, which wiped out 120 tea workers' homes in Badulla district, about 140 miles east of Colombo, said Lal Sarath Kumara, an official from the Disaster Management Center. A 48-year-old truck driver said he lost all five members of his household — his wife, two sons, daughter-in-law and his 6-month-old grandchild. "I came back and there was no trace of my home, everyone was buried."