Sri Lanka braces for monsoon, rescue teams ready
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is bracing for the southwest monsoon rains, expected by Monday, May 27 with rescue teams and relief supplies ready and government officials and residents in disaster-prone areas put through drills and awareness programs.
Officials told a meeting of government, private sector and relief agencies led by the Disaster Management Centre they aimed to achieve "zero deaths" from anticipated floods and landslides and reduce damage to property.
Hospitals have carried out emergency response drills and medical staff provided the required training, while search and rescue teams and relief supplies are being prepositioned, the meeting was told.
Preparations include getting support from the private sector, to support government efforts, along with volunteers like the Red Cross and groups like four-wheel drive off-road enthusiasts whose vehicles can navigate flooded roads.
Search and Rescue (SAR) teams from the Navy, Army, Air Force and Police are on standby with each service and the police allocated areas for deployment.
Dharmasiri Weeratunga, Director General of DMC, said they were seeking coordinated preparedness and response planning among all stakeholders involved in coping with the aftermath of heavy rains.
Monsoon rains in previous years had caught the authorities poorly prepared with many deaths and thousands of people having to evacuate from their homes, although more recently the death toll had come down as readiness improved.
Department of Meteorology officials said the monsoon was expected to start on May 27, Monday.
They said that this year, although the overall rain prediction was above normal, there were indications of below normal rain in the central hills where the hydropower reservoirs are sited.
The Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management Sri Lanka, known as A-PAD, is working with DMC in enhancing professionalism of SAR teams in Sri Lanka and harnessing private sector resources in support of government efforts.
A-PAD recently arranged for Japanese instructors to conduct an internationally rated swift water rescue course.
The Irrigation Department said it is ready to provide alerts of floods based on real-time rainfall patterns.
Previous years’ experience has shown intense rain in short periods can cause river water levels to rise fast and cause heavy flooding in river basins.
River basins at risk are Kelani Ganga, Kalu Ganga, Gin Ganga, Nilwala Ganga and Deduru Oya.
The National Disaster Relief Services Centre said contingency plans for each district division has been prepared with private sector support for government officers on ground during crises requested.
(COLOMBO 26 May 2019)