Sri Lanka monsoon toll nears 150
ECONOMYNEXT – Relief operations picked up on Sunday to care for half a million people driven from their flooded homes as the death toll from the monsoon havoc rose to 146, with another 112 listed as missing.
Military-led relief teams reached all marooned communities in the worst-affected Kalutara and Ratnapura distirctis, as the weather improved with hardly any rain in the 24 hours ending Sunday noon.
The Disaster Management centre said the confirmed death toll was 146. Another 112 were still listed as missing and a further 50 had been treated in hospitals.
Floodwaters were receding in some areas, giving authorities a chance to deliver much-needed supplies to victims of the floods and landslides.
The flood waters at Ratnapura went down considerably, with the main road passable again, but further downstream of the Kalu river there was fresh flooding, especially in the Kalutara district, officials said.
Nearly 2,000 houses were damaged or completely destroyed. Almost half a million Sri Lankans had been forced from their homes, with most moving into temporary shelters.
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said medical teams were sent to the affected areas to prevent an outbreak of waterborne diseases.
He said cholera and diarrhoea had been successfully prevented last year when 100 people were killed and some 10,000 houses were damaged in monsoon rains.
The threat of floods in Colombo and Matara districts receded as there was no rain upstream of the Kelani and Nilvala rivers.
The military has deployed 11 helicopters, boats and amphibious vehicles to distribute aid pouring in from residents in areas unaffected by the floods.
The government appealed for bottled water, new clothes and dry rations for those displaced.
Sri Lanka has also sought international assistance, with India rushing a naval ship equipped with a medical team and other supplies on Saturday. A second Indian vessel was due to arrive in Colombo on Sunday, with a third expected on Monday, the government said.
The United Nations said it will give water containers, water purification tablets and tarpaulin sheets while the World Health Organization will support medical teams in affected areas.
Pakistan said it was in talks with Colombo to send relief supplies. Islamabad recently gave 10,000 tonnes of rice to Sri Lanka to help drought victims.
The meteorological department said the rains ended a prolonged drought that had threatened agriculture and hydropower generation.
The flooding is the worst since May 2003 when 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes destroyed after a similarly powerful monsoon, officials said.
Monsoon rains last year caused flooding and landslides, killing more than 100 people. (COLOMBO, May 28, 2017)