Sri Lanka deluge death toll hits 101 as waters recede
ECONOMYNEXT – Floods subsided across Sri Lanka on Tuesday revealing the full extent of the damage caused by last week’s heavy rains that also triggered landslides, officials said, as the death toll crossed 100.
The Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said 101 people were known to have died last week, while another 100 people were still listed as missing in the worst hit central district of Kegalle.
Military officials in the district, 100 kilometres north-east of the capital, said a search was still underway for the missing people although there was little hope of finding anyone alive under the tonnes of mud.
"This is no longer a rescue, but a recovery operation," a military official said.
Water levels in the Kelani river, which flows to the Indian Ocean through Colombo, had dropped below flood level by Tuesday morning.
"The flood waters have receded," DMC spokesman Pradeep Kodippili said. "Over 530 houses have been completely destroyed and another 4,000 partly damaged."
He said most of the capital’s flood-affected population had returned to their homes since Monday when the water levels started going down.
At the height of the floods, a third of Colombo’s 650,000 residents were driven out of their homes, according to official figures.
The Finance Ministry has estimated the damage to small businesses and industries at about $2 billion. The government has promised compensation to victims, but details are yet to be announced. However, the government said victims will have an extra month to resstle their utility bills for May.
Sri Lanka’s parliament has been recalled to meet on Wednesday, a week ahead of schedule, to discuss reconstruction and rehabilitation following the worst flooding in the capital in nearly a quarter of a century.
Soldiers and relief workers were seen distributing essential supplies to people cleaning up their homes in low-lying areas of Colombo.
Flood waters from the Kelani river were contaminated with garbage from a dump at the edge of the city as well as raw sewage, raising concerns of a disease outbreak, officials said.
Doctors and nurses were seen at the affected areas on Tuesday, while the authorities maintained mobile medical units.
Sri Lanka has received international aid, as well as support from nationals keen to help the victims.
(COLOMBO, May 24, 2016)