0932 GMT January 23, 2018
Military sources said on Monday that aircraft, boats and ground troops had been deployed to evacuate people from flooded areas, deliver essentials and recover bodies following a lull in the torrential monsoon.
Military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne said the let-up had allowed 1,800 soldiers along with 1,100 naval personnel to access cut-off villages and ferry food as well as other essentials to the affected areas.
Official figures indicate that nearly 2,000 houses have suffered structural damage or been completely destroyed and more than 100,000 Sri Lankans have taken shelter in 339 relief camps set up in the country’s south and west.
"I, my children and my grandchildren have lost everything. Not even a pin. Everything was destroyed," said a flood victim.
The Disaster Management Center declared that the death toll rose to 177 after soldiers discovered the bodies of a woman and a child from under tones of mud following a landslide in Ratnapura, the island's gem district east of Colombo. It added that another 109 people were missing.
Sri Lanka’s Health Minister Rajitha Senarathna said special medical teams had been dispatched to the vulnerable areas and that medicine had been sent by air to hospitals unreachable by road.
Reports said some areas in the southern coastal district of Galle, which is popular with foreign tourists, had received no aid or relief materials over the past days due to lack of access.
Meanwhile, police announced that an air force helicopter had crashed in the southern town of Baddegama earlier in the day while transporting relief supplies to flood victims.
"The helicopter crashed onto a house, but fortunately there were no casualties," a regional police official told AFP on the telephone.
Sri Lanka has already appealed for international assistance from the United Nations and neighboring countries.
The UN said it would donate tarpaulins, water containers and water purification tablets. The World Health Organization expressed readiness to support medical teams in the flood-stricken areas. India has reportedly dispatched two naval ships laden with supplies to Sri Lanka.
Amid heavy rains in Sri Lanka, parts of India and Bangladesh have warned of Cyclone Mora, which is expected to move further up the Bay of Bengal and make landfall on Tuesday.
Landslides, mudslides and raging floods are common during the monsoon season in Sri Lanka. In May last year, over 100 people lost their lives due to a massive landslide in the central regions of the country.