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Five drown in Sri Lanka while picking lotus flowers

ECONOMYNEXT – Five people, including four young children, downed while picking lotus flowers in north-eastern Sri Lanka Sunday in the region’s worst boat tragedy in recent years, police said.

The victims, including two boys and two girls between the ages of six and nine year, drowned when their vallam (small boat) capsized in Nilaveli, 275 kilometres (171 miles) northeast of Colombo, a police official said.

He said a 43-year-old farmer who was operating the vallam also died. His nine-year-old daughter was also among those who died. There was only one survivor, a six-year-old girl who was pulled out of the lake by rescuers.

"They were picking lotus flowers to offer at a Hindu temple. It was to give thanks to gods for giving them water for their rice cultivation," a local police official said.

He said it was the worst boat tragedy in the north-eastern region since the end of a decades-long Tamil separatist war in May 2009.

In August last year, five students drowned while on a leisure cruise in northern Sri Lanka. Those victims, aged 19 and 20, were celebrating a birthday when the accident occurred.

It was the worst accident in the Jaffna region, which saw some of the world’s violence of Sri Lanka’s 37-year civil war, since a bus and truck collided in December 2016, killing 10.

Many overcrowded boats capsized in the north and the east of the country during the war, leading to countless casualties, as Tamils tried to flee fierce fighting in the two regions. (COLOMBO, March 11, 2018)

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