Recurring Sri Lanka floods, landslide highlight lack of preparation

ECONOMYNEXT – Floods and landslides triggered by heavy rain in Sri Lanka in May this year occurred in the same areas that suffered similarly in last year’s severe weather but with almost twice the number of people affected, according to a United Nations agency.
An impact comparison of the disasters between 2016 and 2017, both in May, showed that over 650,000 people were affected in 2017 compared with 340,000 people in 2016, said ReliefWeb, an information source on global crises and disasters that is part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Aerial surveys conducted by the Disaster Management Centre confirmed the impact according to satellite imagery from the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters.

"Galle, Kalutara, Matara and Rathnapura are the worst-affected districts," OCHA said.  "An analysis of the floods and landslides in 2017 also indicate that the affected areas are the same districts that were severely hit with a similar disaster in 2016."

The Colombo and Gampaha districts were also affected in both years.

Over 200 people have died in the disaster this year, the government said, with 92 still missing. Many of the people affected were those settled in flood-prone or landslide-prone areas, who with proper planning, based on past experience, could have been warned in advance to evacuate, amalysts said.

The onset of heavy monsoon rains had been predicted days in advance.

The UN said that, with electricity disrupted in the affected areas, hospitals and health posts are experiencing power shortages, which is hampering healthcare services.

As of 31 May, the Ministry of Health has mobilized 26 medical teams in health posts established in safe locations.
(COLOMBO, June 02, 2017)

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