Sri Lanka - Floods OCHA Situation Report No. 4

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 26 May 2003
Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2003/0081
OCHA Situation Report No. 4
Sri Lanka - Floods
26 May 2003

This report is based on information received from the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, the UNDAC Team, and the Sri Lankan Government authorities.

The Government of Sri Lanka has requested international assistance.


1. There has been a significant fall of flood levels in all districts except in Matara District where water levels remain at approximately 1.4 meters and are falling at a rate of about 20 cm per day. Road access to most places is now possible with the exception of Matara District where some areas are still cut off. Water supply schemes in affected towns are largely operational. Bowsers have been deployed to truck water to distribution tanks placed at central places in most needy areas. The weather over the next few days will remain a critical factor.

2. The situation in Kalutara District is improving with a major reduction of water levels. However, some villages are still inundated. Dodangoda and Millaniya divisions are the worst affected. Approximately 52,000 families found shelter in public buildings, such as schools and temples. Some are returning as road access has improved, but isolated pockets remain. The cleaning of wells has started.

3. In Ratnapura District, 47,000 families have been affected by flooding of which 1,000 are severely affected. Deaths in Ratnapura were mainly due to landslides. Several areas continue to be at risk. A detailed assessment of flood damage is now underway. Displaced persons have been put up in public buildings and temples. Improvement of sanitation in the areas that still host displaced people is a priority, as well as the reconstruction of damaged and destroyed housing in order to vacate the public buildings, presently occupied.

4. In Galle District, 10 of the 18 divisions were affected by the floods, the worst affected being Neluwa and Thawalama. Nearly all areas are now accessible. A rapid needs assessment has been completed and the rehabilitation phase has now started. Cleaning of wells is the priority. The floods affected the health services in the divisions of Neluwa, Thawalana, Udugama, Niyagama, Elpitiya and Baddegam. The District Hospital in Hiniduma lost all medical and general supplies, furniture and documents. The building has also been damaged. Roads, bridges and power infrastructure have suffered limited damages.

5. Matara District is the most affected district. Flood levels remain high (above 1m) and pumping stations cannot operate until water levels fall to 0.8m. Water levels are now falling at 20 cm per day. The major concern is over the availability of clean drinking water and on sanitation. Cases of diarrhea have been reported and precautions, such as the closing of schools, have been taken to minimise the further spread of disease. Cleaning of rural wells and the provision of medical services are now the main priorities. Power supply infrastructure and roads have been damaged. Road access to Morawaka, a badly affected area where water levels reached 6 meters above normal, is restricted to vehicles of 2 MT due to damages to sections of the access road. Access from Matara to Hakmana and Akurassa is restricted.

6. In Hambantota District, the floods affected only western divisions. The situation has greatly improved and is under control. The focus is now mainly on rehabilitation. Construction of permanent houses for 100 families is the priority. There are no immediate concerns with regards to health, water and food.

7. According to WHO, the main challenge within the health sector at this stage is to ensure sufficient supply of potable water, since the water infrastructure has been damaged and a large number of wells inundated. In addition, the damage of water supply and sewerage systems increase the risk of outbreaks of communicable diseases and pose serious environmental health threats in terms of excreta disposal and solid waste management. Moreover, the deterioration of living conditions caused by population movements from low- to highlands increases the risk of vector-borne diseases.

8. The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has made a general request for technical assistance for hazard assessment of habitation at risk of landslides. The GoSL has also asked the Government of India for assistance with regard to temporary bridging equipment to help restore communications to affected areas.


9. Rapid needs assessments are now taking place in all districts and the GoSL is preparing a document for international donors outlining initial emergency and rehabilitation needs. The UNDAC Team is assisting the GoSL in preparing its initial assessment of emergency and rehabilitation needs.

10. The Sri Lanka Armed Forces have been deployed in all districts to support the Government Agents. Efforts will focus on the distribution of relief materials as well as on helping villages clean their wells.

11. The general public and commercial companies have made substantial charitable donations. In Ratnapura the Tea Ministry is providing families with LKR 27,000 (approximately USD 280) each as assistance for the rebuilding of houses. The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society is putting five teams in the districts to mobilise villagers to clean wells and train them to check the quality of water.


12. The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) has announced the release of EUR 800,000 (approximately USD 944,000). It is envisaged that most of the funds will be used for water and sanitation actions. Recognising that the affected districts are vulnerable to serious flooding, ECHO recently funded disaster preparedness activities covering the districts of Ratnapura, Kalutara and Galle. An EUR 400,000 (approximately USD 461,000) project, implemented by the Spanish and the Sri Lankan Red Cross Societies, was completed in January 2003. It was designed to boost the capacity of local communities to respond speedily and effectively when flooding occurs. The project included training and equipment for 460 volunteers who are now delivering emergency relief in the affected areas. An emergency stock of basic relief items was also created; these are currently being distributed to flood victims.

13. Germany has donated EUR 375,000 (approximately USD 432,000) for the provision of clean water for 60,000 people for one month, as well as for the cleaning of flooded wells.

14. France has donated LKR 2.5 million (approximately USD 26,000) through the Sri Lankan NGO HUDEC-SEDEC, which will distribute relief items to 4,000 families.

15. THW Germany has provided four water-purification plants, 5 water pumps for well cleaning, a laboratory as well as 17 technical staff. Two of the water-purification plants and the laboratory will be set up in Matara. In Galle one water-purification plant will be set up.

16. Several NGOs such as OXFAM, AMDA and the Sewalanka Foundation are also carrying out activities in the affected districts.

17. OCHA is in close contact with the UN Resident Coordinator's Office in Colombo, and will revert with further information, as appropriate.

18. OCHA is prepared to serve as channel for cash contributions to be used for immediate relief assistance, in coordination/consultation with relevant organisations in the United Nations system. For banking details please contact the Desk Officers indicated below. OCHA provides donors with written confirmation and pertinent details concerning the utilization of the funds contributed.

19. This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at

MAP - Sri Lanka: Floods - Location Map

Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officers:
Ms. Marie Spaak/Mr. Klaus Quiding
Direct Tel. +41-22-917 17 28/17 69

Press contact:
(GVA) - Ms. Elizabeth Byrs, direct Tel. +41-22-917 26 53
(N.Y.) - Mr. Brian Grogan, direct Tel. +1-212-963 11 43

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
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