With the start of the Southwest monsoon on 25 May 2017, Sri Lanka received heavy rainfall in itssouthern and western regions, with some parts getting over 500mm rainfall. Flash floods and landslides affected over 674,553 people and displaced over 66,045 people as of 2 June 2017. So far 208 deaths have been reported and 92 people still remain missing due to the disasters. Galle, Kalutara, Matara and Ratnapura are the worst-affected districts.
With access gradually being restored, and following the initial prioritization of search and rescue, and evacuation and management of safe locations, the Government has identified water and non-food items (NFIs) as priorities. Field teams from UN agencies, NGOs and the International Federation of the Red Cross confirmed that emergency shelter, NFIs, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and health services are key immediate needs in the worst-affected districts of Galle, Kalutara, Matara and Ratnapura. Disease surveillance and vector control is also a priority with the risk of communicable diseases.
To complement the ongoing Government-led response, an Emergency Response Plan and additional funding needs to provide critical life-saving and protection needs from 1 June to 31 October are being determined by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT).
UNICEF is partnering with Government and international/ local NGOs for the provision of child-friendly spaces, psychosocial support and education in the areas affected by floods and landslides.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
With the onset of the Southwest monsoon over Sri Lanka, torrential rains – the worst to hit the country since 2003 – inundated the western and southern regions of the country. Many incidents of deadly landslides had been reported along with flash floods causing 208 deaths and 92 people missing. The authorities expect the number of casualties to rise as the situation evolves. Currently, 66,045 people are reported as displaced in 368 evacuation centres in 15 districts (out of 25). However, this number does not include the people stranded in their homes without access to safe locations or those who are sheltering at host families. Therefore, the actual number of people displaced and affected could be significantly higher than reported. The search and rescue operations are facing difficulties receiving information about location and stranded people due to power outages and telecommunication hindrances (e.g. no battery power in mobile phones).
Five major river basins (Kelani, Kalu, Gin, Nilawala and Attanagalu Oya) are flooded since 26 May 2017 and the flood water continues to rise in many locations. Flood resistant damns along many rivers are either overflowing or reaching saturation points with some already at risk of breach. The Department of Irrigation had issued warning to people living in downstream in Kalutara district to evacuate with immediate effect on 28 May 2017.
The Department of Meteorology warns of continued heavy rainfall (above 100 mm) throughout the same areas on 30 May 2017. Strong winds (about 80 kmph) and thundershowers are expected over the country.
On 29 May, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that all schools in Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Ratnapura and Kegalle will remain closed until 2 June. Some of the schools (numbers to be confirmed by MOE) are used as temporary camps, particularly in the landslide-affected districts such as Ratnapura.
Based on available information, at least 16 hospitals were evacuated fully or partially as facilities were directly affected by the floods or exposed to landslides according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners. Affected hospitals are evacuating critical patients with the support of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces. Several hospitals in the affected areas are without electricity which has critically impeded their operability.
In the absence of a proper Government-led needs assessment, the initial humanitarian response was planned based on estimations derived from analysing/comparing the demographic data (Census, 2012) and historical flood/landslide statistics (especially May 2016).
On 29 and 30 May, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) conducted field visits and initial assessments in the worst affected divisions (covering about 104,000 people) in Galle, Kalutara, Matara and Rathnapura. Emergency shelter, NFIs, and health services were identified as immediate needs. In assessed safe locations, overcrowding, lack of privacy, lack of NFIs and water and sanitation facilities are key issues.