The Sri Lanka Army and United Nations agencies in Colombo have warned more than one million people affected by the floods to be wary of mines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) when the waters recede.
Army Headquarters sent out instructions yesterday to Brigade Commanders in the flood-affected areas to issue warnings to both government officials and flood victims. “There is every possibility of mines surfacing as a result of flood waters,” military spokesperson Udaya Madawala told the Sunday Times.
He said that in the three eastern province districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara, the worst-hit by the floods, almost 90 percent of the mines had been removed. However, the spread of flood waters in the districts of Vavuniya and Mullaitivu could become a threat. He said agencies involved in de-mining operations had also been warned about this threat.
Rains have either receded or stopped altogether in most areas. However, officials at the Disaster Management Centre in Colombo said the danger was not over. Yesterday, flood waters rose in areas in the Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts.
The Sri Lanka branch of the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the flood waters could unearth mines, ERWs and explosives in contaminated areas and carry them to areas thought to be safe. The warning came in its Monsoon Flood Update report for January 14 (Friday).
The OCHA said, “Local authorities/Regional Mine Action offices have requested vigilance from residents and people working in affected areas on any mine/ERW threats or concerns to be reported. The Regional Mine Action Centres are assessing the need to re-survey areas that are potentially affected by mines/ERWs shifted by flooding.”
An estimated one million people were affected by floods with 37 deaths reported until yesterday. But the final toll was likely to be higher.
The current floods have caused damage to more than 400,000 acres of paddy land and 250,000 acres of other crops, raising fear of a severe shortage of rice and various other crops and hike in prices in the coming months.
Meanwhile, Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said Government would launch a reconstruction programme of roads, rail tracks, irrigation tanks and canals, and buildings damaged by the floods. The loss is estimated at about Rs. 40 billion,
He said the damage to infrastructure facilities was the worst since the 2004 tsunami.
He said reconstruction work would be carried out under the supervision of the
Economic Development Ministry headed by Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
Mr. Amaraweera, speaking from Batticaloa, the worst affected area, said the biggest damage had been caused to the roads and the irrigation canal systems. Parts of the roads in the flood-hit Eastern and North Central Provinces have been washed away.
The minister said Rs. 50 million was released yesterday for relief work in addition to the Rs. 125 million allocated earlier in the week.