Maldives

Maldives: Flood waters rising in Gaaf Dhaal

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By Ajay Makan

Flood waters in Gaaf Dhaal atoll reached further into at least two islands on Thursday, leading to the evacuation of several homes.

Floods caused by storm surges have effected 55 of the 197 islands in the Maldives since Tuesday, but were receding on Wednesday. Apart from the deteriorating situation in Gaaf Dhaal, most atolls reported improvements on Thursday.

The government has refused to declare a state of emergency, and criticised media reports of "tidal waves" as exaggerations.

Evacuations

Islanders on both Fares-Maathodaa and Nadella in Gaaf Dhaal atoll have reported renewed flooding, forcing the evacuation of several homes on both islands.

Two houses on Fares-Maathodaa are reported destroyed and another house on Fyoli island severely damaged. So far five hundred separate homes have been evacuated across the atoll since Tuesday, meaning over 3,000 people have been displaced.

Atoll Chief Ali Sharif said "there is no need for emergency shelter yet, people are staying with relatives in other homes in the islands. We are providing food to all evacuated people, and mattreses to those who need them."

Sharif dismissed claims the government was not doing enough for victims. "There is a high level delegation from the government including the Energy Minister who is here with me. And the President has been in contact twice and directed me to make sure the needs of islanders are met... Money is being supplied."

"Teams of police, MNDF [National Defence Force] and NGOs have been sent to each island to help them take preventative measures," he added.

Shairf emphasised there had been no loss of life, and so far only one injury in Gaaf Dhaal, a fractured arm sustained by a man on Madavelli running from a wave. But he refused to say "the situation was under control" with another high tide due Thursday afternoon.

Exaggeration

The government's chief spokesperson said Tuesday's "simultaneous flooding of 55 islands was unprecedented... there is no record of such an event apart from the tsunami."

But Mohamed Hussein Shareef (Mundhu) criticised media reports of "tidal waves," which he said were "complete exaggerations... these are clearly storm surges not tidal waves."

"Storm surges regularly happen in the Maldives at this time of year... they don't cause much damage because they recede very quickly," he added.

Mundhu rejected suggestions the government could be doing more. "What can we do? Once the costal defences are breached, we can only help people protect their properties, which is what we are doing."

"A measured response is called for," he said and confirmed the Disaster Management Centre (DMC), which was set up after the tsunami, has not been called upon. "We do not consider this to be a national emergency," he said.

Earlier Sujatha Haleem, a manager at the DMC had told NGOs, "we have not been instructed to take any action by the government... we are collection information but that is all... the Atolls Ministry are dealing with the floods."

Improving

On Thursday afternoon, the Met Office said "conditions have been somewhat better today... we expect more high waves tonight, but not as high as on Tuesday."

Predictions by the Met office on Tuesday warned Maldivians to expect three days of storm surges, with more normal weather patterns expected by Friday. But on Thursday the Met Office said "it is too early to predict confidently" conditions for Friday and beyond.

Maldives Independent
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