Sri Lanka monsoon toll nears 200 as flood waters recede
ECONOMYNEXT – The death toll from Friday’s monsoon rains rose to 177 by Monday afternoon as relief workers unearthed more bodies of victims from Ratnapura, the worst affected district. Another 109 people are still listed as missing.
President Maithripala Sirisena visited the area to supervise the relief operations and ordered troops to rebuild thousands of damaged homes and help with the clean up operations.
The military said a lull in torrential rains allowed them to deploy aircraft, boats and more ground troops to evacuate people from flooded areas, deliver essentials and recover bodies of victims.
Just over half a million people have had to abandon their homes after the island suffered its worst flooding in 14 years.
The Disaster Management Centre said 177 people had been confirmed dead, most of them buried by landslides triggered by Friday’s deluge. Another 109 people are listed as missing. Just over 100 have been admitted to hospitals.
There was fair weather Monday, but an Mi-17 transport helicopter crash landed while trying to deliver food and other essentials to a marooned village in the southern Baddegama area, but there were no casualties. There were 11-crew onboard.
Another transport helicopter evacuated a pregnant 19-year-old woman who delivered a still-born child, officials said.
Military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne said a let-up in the rains had allowed troops to access cut-off villages.
He said 1,800 soldiers and 1,100 naval personnel had been deployed to evacuate people and ferry food and other essentials to affected areas. The Civil Defence Force said they were deploying 1,500 men to help with clearing up operations as the water levels go down.
The flooding is the worst since May 2003, when 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes destroyed after a similarly powerful monsoon.
Nearly 6,000 houses have suffered structural damage or been completely destroyed, according to official figures.
All schools in flood-hit areas, including the capital Colombo, will be closed for a week.
Sri Lanka has sought international assistance, with India sending two naval ships laden with supplies over the weekend. A Third ship was expected this week, officials said.
The United Nations said it would donate water containers, water purification tablets and tarpaulins while the World Health Organization will support medical teams in affected areas.
China, the US, Pakistan and several other countries had also offered help, the government said.
Japan had promised portable electricity generators and a team of experts to help with the relief work, officials said
The meteorological department said Friday’s rain ended a prolonged drought that had threatened agriculture. It is forecasting more rain in the next two days.
(COLOMBO, May 29, 2017)