At least 122 people were killed and 97 others missing in rain-triggered floods and landslides in Sri Lanka, officials said on Saturday (27 May). Nearly 500,000 people have reportedly been displaced in the disaster.

The Southwest monsoon rains that started early Friday came after nearly two months of prolonged drought, ravaging 14 districts in the western and southern parts of the country.

Police spokesman Priyantha Jayakody said multiple landslides were reported in the western coastal district of Kalutara, the central southern district of Ratnapura and the southern district of Matara.

Rescuers set up around 185 camps for displaced people and the town of Matara was being evacuated.

Those living along the banks of rivers Nilwala Ganga, Gin Ganga and Kalu Ganga were also asked to move to safer areas because of rising water levels.

Even after Sri Lankan military and rescue teams used boats and helicopters, access to some areas was very difficult, officials said.

More than 2,000 military personnel had been deployed to help the police and civilian agencies, military spokesman Roshan Senevirathne said.

Colombo has appealed for international assistance to deal with the situation. An appeal had been made to the United Nations and neighbouring countries to provide support "especially in the areas of search and rescue operations" the country's foreign ministry said.

India has sent three Navy ships, the first of which arrived on Saturday in Colombo, with supplies and other aid.

The Sri Lankan government said in a statement to the BCC that, "The (foreign) ministry will continue to monitor the flood situation and seek assistance as required in consultation with the ministry of disaster management."

Sri Lankan meteorology officials said, "Thursday's rains were the worst since 2003 and we expect more in the coming days." The May 2003 monsoon rains had destroyed around 10,000 homes and killed 250 people.

Sri Lanka floods kills 122
People travel on top of an armoured personnel carrier on a flooded road in Bulathsinhala village in Kalutara, Sri Lanka - File Photo REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte