COLOMBO (REUTERS) - More than 100 people are believed to have been killed on Wednesday in a landslide in hilly south-central Sri Lanka, Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said.
"More than 100 people are believed to have died," the minister told Reuters from the disaster site in the village of Haldummulla, 190km inland from the capital Colombo.
"We have suspended the rescue operations because of darkness and inclement weather. There is also threat of further landslide. We will continue from tomorrow."
Amaraweera said the landslide was at least 3km long. Villagers had been advised in 2005 and 2012 to move away because of the threat of landslides, but many did not heed the warning, he said.
"I was under the rubble and some people took me out ... my mother and aunt have died," a woman who was being treated for injuries told media.
There have been a number of landslides since the start of heavy rains in mid-September resulting in damage to roads, but there had been no casualties until Wednesday.
Some roads in the central districts of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Badulla were blocked on Wednesday due to landslides, limiting public transport.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa tweeted that on his instructions, military heavy machinery had been deployed to speed up search and rescue operations.
The people living in the affected hilly area are mostly of Indian Tamil origin, descendants of workers brought to Sri Lanka from South India under British rule as cheap labour to work on tea, rubber and coffee plantations.