Sri Lanka

Death toll continues to rise while more affected; flood situation in Sri Lanka turns deadly

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Situation Report by Mahieash Johnney - IFRC, Communications & Information Manager, Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sri Lanka: Floods which hit Sri Lanka for the second time within weeks have killed over six and have affected more than 100,000 people in nine districts.

According to the Minister of Disaster Management in Sri Lanka Mahinda Amaraweera 12,000 houses had been fully destroyed while 35, 000 had been partly damaged. He said nine districts including Batticaloa, Ampara, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya, Vavuniya and Matale were affected by the floods this time.

Some families in the Ampara, Batticaloa areas have been affected by the floods for the second time within weeks.

A similar flood situation was reported in Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee Districts last month as well. All tanks in the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa areas were overflowing while a similar situation was reported in the Ampara District where all except one tank had started overflowing. Several tanks were overflowing in Trincomalee too as of last evening.

The Minister said Rs 38 million was sent to the affected areas yesterday alone.

Red Cross Action

All branches of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) along with partner national societies and the International Federation of the Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been continuously aiding the affected by means of providing cooked food, non-food relief items, boat services to evacuate the stranded especially in Batticaloa, Trincomalee and in Ampara, first aid and medical care and also necessary sanitary facilities to people who stay at welfare camps.

These relief services continues in all branches affected while a 4.6 million Swiss Francs appeal was also launched two weeks back in order to garner support to the affected.

"We are closely monitoring the situation unfolding here in Sri Lanka and are taking adequate steps in order to help the vulnerable. We have been supporting the SLRCS to strengthen their response to the disaster" said Bob McKerrow Head of Delegation for the IFRC in Sri Lanka.

Furthermore he said that more needs to be done. " I find it frustrating sitting in Colombo, having visited the flood affected areas twice when 1 million people were affected, and now we have had severe rains for at least 48 hours and many of the initially affected, are hit again. Add to that, support from our traditional partners are poor" it makes the work of the SLRCS difficult as we need more funds for urgent local purchases."

Meanwhile SLRCS branches in Ampara, Batticaloa, Polonnaruwa, Matale and Trincomalee are distributing nonfood relief items such as sarongs, sarees, mosquito nets, bed sheets, sleeping mats, kaftans, tarpaulins and safe drinking water for the affected people.

Director General of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society Tissa Abeywickrama says "It's quite crucial that we provide these items to these people so that they would not become vulnerable to other diseases that would come up soon after a flood situation like this".

Boat Services

The SLRCS Batticaloa branch has launched a boat service for rescue operations in order to bring stranded people to safety in the area.

So far 07 boats have been deployed in Vavunathivu, Vakarai, Vellavelli, Paddipalai and in Manmunai North to evacuate stranded people.

More threats

Meanwhile the North Western Province of Sri Lanka is facing an emergency and critical situation with several major tanks and reservoirs threatened with the possibility of bursting due to the continuous heavy rains.

Water levels of Nachchaduwa tank and Nuwara Weva reservoir are reported to be three feet above the spill level. Since the water levels of these tanks are continuously increasing, measures have been taken to divert the water of these two tanks to another reservoir, the Malwathu Oya and flood situation has occurred in the Anuradhapura Town and in the suburbs of Malwathu Oya.

District Secretary of Anuradhapura urges the public to remain cautious and on continuous alert as the situation can worsen.

This is the first time after 1958 water levels of all tanks in Anuradhapura district have increased simultaneously.

The Australian factor

The Department of Meteorology said yesterday that the turbulent weather conditions in Australia had had an effect on Sri Lanka during the past few days.

G. B. Samarasinghe, director general of the Department of Meteorology, told a news conference that the heavy rains which that country had experienced during the last few days had had an effect on Sri Lanka.

He explained that the winds which were blowing into Sri Lanka during the past few days had come from the Australian region. Samarasinghe however said the effect was now minimal as the storm in Australia had become weaker as it travelled inland from the shore.

Referring to the current weather conditions, he said the rains were mainly brought on by the North East Monsoon.