Sri Lanka shelves car purchases as monsoon toll nudges 200

ECONOMYNEXT – The government Tuesday decided not to proceed with the purchase of luxury cars for ministers at a cost of over two million dollars and instead set aside more money for flood and landslide victims.

President Maithripala Sirisena seconded a proposal by Telecom minister Harin Fernando to suspend the car purchases at least till the end of this year as the death toll from Friday’s deluge reached 193 with another 94 still missing.

Some 1,400 house destroyed by the landslides will be rebuilt by the state while partly damaged homes numbering nearly 7,000 will be repaired by the government using the military, the government said.

The government also set aside two billion rupees to help small and medium-scale enterprises affected by the floods as well as the landslides.

Meanwhile, the government appealed for help to purify wells contaminated by the floods, the worst in 14 years after record rainfall in the island’s southwest.

Water supply minister Rauf Hakeem said 40 percent of those affected had no access to piped drinking water, and there was an urgent need to purify contaminated wells in flood-hit areas.

He said 400 people had volunteered so far for a major clean-up of wells and appealed for donations of water pumps.

"Our workers have volunteered to join a major (well) clean-up," the minister told reporters in Colombo. He said flooded pumping stations had been restored but an area just outside Colombo was still without piped water.

Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said many victims had started moving back into their homes as floodwaters receded but authorities remained concerned about the spread of disease.

"We have started sending additional doctors, nurses and medical supplies to prevent any outbreak of diseases such as rat fever (leptospirosis) and diarrhoea," said Senaratne, who is also health minister.

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"We could also have a dengue outbreak in about two weeks. We are very conscious of that. Additional medical teams will be checking on mosquito breeding grounds as well."

The military has deployed more service personnel in addition to the thousands already involved in distributing food and other essentials to flood victims in the districts of Kalutara, Ratnapura, Galle and Matara.

Sri Lanka has experienced scattered showers in many parts in the past 24 hours but flood waters are rapidly receding, officials said.

A third aid ship arrived from India Tuesday, Senaratne said, adding that three ships from China and another from Pakistan were also expected  this week.

Australia, Japan and Singapore were among the other nations rushing to donate inflatable boats and other aid. (COLOMBO, May 30, 2017)

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