Home > Flood, Sri Lanka > Sri Lanka Flooding; nearly 900,000 Displaced

Sri Lanka Flooding; nearly 900,000 Displaced

February 5, 2011

At least 13 people have been killed and more than 800,000 affected by fresh floods across Sri Lanka that have swept away homes, roads and vast swathes of agricultural land. Renewed heavy rainfall across several districts in Sri Lanka have forced army and navy personnel to fan out in teams to reach relief to the affected.
The incessant rains in several parts of the country have called for more humanitarian assistance for those who have lost their homes and livelihoods.
The prevailing weather conditions in most parts of the country have once again left thousands homeless for the second time in two months.

This time, however, the number of people that have been affected is somewhat lesser than last time. The people in the North Central and Eastern Provinces have been warned of the situation and have been advised to be on alert.
The situation has forced many schools to once again temporarily halt their activities for the safety of the children and the teachers. Some of them have been converted into temporary shelters for those who have been displaced.
While priority has been given for the well being of the affected people, the focus has also been on unprecedented effects of climate change.

The Meteorological Department admits that this was the worst weather condition experienced by the country in the past many years. It has been predicted that the prevailing weather conditions would ease in the southern and western pars of the country during the coming days.
Director General of the Meteorological Department, G B Samarasinghe pointed out that it was not unusual for the country to face rains this part of the year.
“We are now in the North East Monsoon period. Therefore, rains are expected in the Northern and Eastern Province during this period,” he clarified.
However, Samarasinghe accepted that the climate was very different from the past years due to several factors affecting the weather conditions around the world.

Samarasinghe attributed the present climate to the La Nina effect in the Pacific region and explained the reasons behind the unusual weather condition experienced in the country.
“Changes in weather are very normal. But, we should understand that these changes do not depend on the factors related to a specific country or region. It is not an isolated incidence. The changes in climate in other parts of the world too affect the conditions here. For example, the adverse climate in Sri Lanka is mostly due to the La Nina effect in the Pacific region,” Samarasinghe explained. He also pointed out that the people were warned of the situation a week earlier.
Samarasinghe added that though there were signs of the situation improving in the East, the rains were likely to continue for a while.

Nearly one million people have been affected and more than 185,000 people from 11 districts have been displaced due to rains and floods. The displaced have been sheltered in 543 temporary evacuation centres. The Disaster Management Centre (DMC) reported that the highest displacement had been recorded in the Trincomalee (65,688), Batticaloa (78,973), Polonnaruwa (18,325) and Ampara (14,029) Districts.
The Eastern Province once again has been heavily affected owing to the prevalent weather conditions, as was the case last month. “This time is far worse than the last time. Almost the whole of Batticaloa is getting flooded. We have never experienced this before,” said K Krishanthini, a resident in Batticaloa.
Deputy Resettlement Minister, Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan who was in the East last week said several villages in Batticaloa North had gone under water leaving thousands of people homeless.
“It does not look as if the rains would stop anytime soon. Villages such as Urani, Valaichchenai and Siththandi have gone under water,” he said.

Muralitharan pointed out that the water released from the Roogam Tank had also flooded these areas. Muralitharan had met with Batticaloa Government Agent (GA) Sundaram Arumainayagam and other officials and had briefed them on the steps needed to be taken. However, sources in Batticaloa said the rains had eased by yesterday afternoon but added more showers could be expected.
Trincomalee GA, Major General T R Silva stated that the situation was handled well by the authorities. He said the situation could be managed through the experience gained last month.
The affected people are now being provided with cooked meals. Muralitharan also added that they would be provided with dry rations in the future.

With the rains showing no signs of providing respite, the government and the humanitarian agencies are once again pushed to ensure the people are on safe grounds.
The latest situation report released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Friday said water continued to spill over from tanks and reservoirs in most of the provinces, despite the precautions taken by the Irrigation Department. The authorities were forced to open the sluice gates of water reservoirs due to incessant rains that hit the Eastern and the North Central Provinces for the second time this year.

The report stated that this time, the water level was rapidly increasing and things were being washed away by strong currents, which was not the case last month. “Many towns are submerged and access roads to the provinces continue to be flooded,” the UN OCHA report said.
The DMC said a total of 984, 256 people belonging to 295,816 families have been affected due to the prevalent adverse conditions. According to DMC most of the affected are from Trincomalee (326,638 people), Ampara (98,501 people), Batticaloa (225,080 people) and Polonnaruwa (20,638 people) districts.
The DMC has recorded seven deaths from Polonnaruwa, Badulla, Vavuniya, Ampara and Kalutara. In addition five injuries have also been reported. Two persons have been reported missing.

While people on lower grounds face troubles due to flooding, those on the mountain slopes in the hill country are faced with a different problem. Several places have been affected due to landslides.
Authorities warned residents of Matale, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla and Kandy of possible landslides owing to unceasing rains. A situation of emergency was also declared in Matale late last week, following heavy rains.
The DMC has warned the people living near reservoirs and tanks of flood risks and has asked them to be on the alert.

At the same time, several relief operations have been organised and implemented by the government and humanitarian agencies.
Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera pointed out that damage could be minimised this time due to the precautionary measures taken by the authorities. The government has already instructed the Divisional Secretaries of the affected areas on providing the people with immediate assistance.
“We are working with the Navy and the Air Force to rescue the people from the flooded areas. We have boats and helicopters on standby,” the Minister said. “We also coordinated with the Met Department. That was how we were able to manage the situation.” The Minister, however, added the damages could not be calculated as the situation had not improved.

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