Sri Lanka flood toll hits 11, thousands more homeless

Emergency workers in Sri Lanka on Tuesday found the bodies of a woman and two children killed in a landslide, taking the toll from two days of heavy rain to 11, with thousands more forced to flee their homes.
Channel NewsAsia 18 May 16;

COLOMBO: Emergency workers in Sri Lanka on Tuesday (May 17) found the bodies of a woman and two children killed in a landslide, taking the toll from two days of heavy rain to 11, with thousands more forced to flee their homes.

Another five people are missing across the island, parts of which have been underwater since Sunday, a spokesman for the Disaster Management Centre said.

"Over 200,000 individuals have been displaced by the floods and are being looked after at several welfare centres," Pradeep Kodippili said.

The northern district of Kilinochchi received the highest rainfall of 373 millimetres in the 24 hours ending Tuesday morning - more than a quarter of the annual average rainfall in the region.

The government has deployed troops to evacuate people living on slopes or in flood-hit areas and the navy and the air force have also been called in to help with relief operations.

The meteorological department says the heavy rains could continue until Wednesday.

- AFP/de

Sri Lanka landslide buries three villages; death toll unknown
A landslide in Sri Lanka, triggered by more than three days of rain, buried three villages in a central district and the death toll is yet to be determined, government officials and area residents said on Tuesday.
Channel NewsAsia 17 May 16;

COLOMBO: A landslide in Sri Lanka, triggered by more than three days of rain, buried three villages in a central district and the death toll is yet to be determined, government officials and area residents said on Tuesday.

Torrential rains have forced more than 137,000 people from their homes so far and killed at least 11.

Rohan Dias, a deputy police inspector, said rescue operations at the villages in the central district of Kegalle was continuing in the night.

"There were about 150 families in those villages and we don't know how many survived," Dias told Reuters.

"There are about 800 people gathered in the nearby temples including the people from the neighbouring villages fearing their villages could also be affected. There are another 400 people in the roads who have come to see their relatives."

W.M. Abeywickrema, Kegalle district secretary, told a local private channel that around 400 people had been rescued so far.

"I saw a whole rock came down and buried many houses. There are people inside," one middle-aged woman told the channel.

Military Spokesman Jayanath Jayaweera said 174 service personnel and 8 army officers had been deployed to the rescue area in Aranayaka in Kegalle district.

Troops also have launched rescue operations in inundated areas of the Indian Ocean island, with boats and helicopters pulling more than 200 people trapped in the northwestern coastal district of Puttalam to safety, officials said.

"This is the worst torrential rain we have seen since 2010," said Pradeep Kodippili, a spokesman for the disaster management centre. Nineteen of Sri Lanka's 25 districts have been hit.

Heavy rains have also struck the neighbouring Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. More than 100 houses were damaged in coastal Kerala and about 50 families had been shifted to a relief camp in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, a state official said.

The weather department has forecast heavy rains across Tamil Nadu over the next two days and warned fishermen not to go out to sea.

Flooded roads and fallen trees led to traffic jams in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. Trains were halted as water submerged railway tracks, officials said.

Flooding and drought are cyclical in Sri Lanka, which is battered by a southern monsoon between May and September, while a northeastern monsoon runs from December to February.

(Writing by Shihar Aneez; editing by Ralph Boulton)

- Reuters


200,000 flee capital as Sri Lanka flood misery worsens
Sri Lankans clambered onto rubber dinghies and makeshift rafts Friday to flee their flooded capital as fresh downpours elsewhere hampered relief efforts.
Channel NewsAsia 20 May 16;

COLOMBO: Sri Lankans clambered onto rubber dinghies and makeshift rafts Friday (May 20) to flee their flooded capital as fresh downpours elsewhere hampered relief efforts.

The heaviest rains in a quarter of a century have pounded the island since last weekend, sparking huge landslides that have buried victims in up to 50 feet (15 metres) of mud.

Officials have urged those living in affected areas to leave immediately, with more than 60 people known to have died so far and fears that number could yet spike with many more reported missing.

Large parts of Colombo were evacuated overnight in an operation led by the military, involving boats and helicopters.

The national Disaster Management Centre said that around 200,000 people had been moved from the low-lying capital while 400,000 people have been forced to flee to state-run relief camps.

The worst-hit areas were in Colombo's northeastern suburbs along the Kelani river, which began bursting its banks on Thursday evening.

Residents in the Kolonnawa district of the capital built jury-rigged rafts using plastic barrels to ferry marooned residents to high ground while the navy used rubber dinghies to help others to safety.

Some people appeared reluctant to move despite promises from the office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that the army would prevent looting.

The Lion Brewery, which has the local licence to produce Carlsburg, said its factory in an industrial area on the edge of Colombo was under water.

Thousands of empty gas cylinders were also washed away by the floods, images in Sri Lankan media showed.

It was raining in Colombo on Friday morning, with heavier downpours to the north of the capital that officials said would further swell the Kelani.

Three people have been killed in flood-related incidents in Colombo but the national toll since the weekend now stands at 63.

The district of Kegalle, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Colombo, has been worst-hit, with the toll from two separate landslides rising to 34 after troops pulled another body from the mud overnight.

A police officer in the area said that 144 people, including 37 children, had been reported missing since the landslides on Tuesday evening.

"We can't definitely say if all these missing people were actually in their homes at the time of the disaster," said the officer, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The officer said that there was no realistic hope of finding any survivors in landslides that buried two villages in up to 50 feet of mud.

"This is turning into a recovery operation," the officer said.

There was more heavy rain in Kegalle overnight and reports of fresh mudslides, although it was not known if anyone was killed.

The meteorological department has said the heavy rains have been caused by a depression in the Bay of Bengal, ahead of the arrival of the southwest monsoon.

- AFP

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