By Aanya Wipulasena and Mirudhula Thambiah A four-year-old boy from Kochchikade, Negombo died after being left in a vehicle without any ventilation as his parents were busy preparing for the New Year celebrations in the worst of more than 50 accidents involving children during the festive period, hospital authorities reported last week.  The Avurudu also [...]


Child’s death in locked car mars Avurudu celebrations


By Aanya Wipulasena and Mirudhula Thambiah

A four-year-old boy from Kochchikade, Negombo died after being left in a vehicle without any ventilation as his parents were busy preparing for the New Year celebrations in the worst of more than 50 accidents involving children during the festive period, hospital authorities reported last week. 

Dr. Anil Jasinghe

The Avurudu also ended in tragedy for a family when a neighbour began shooting at them for having let off fireworks that landed in his garden.

The four-year-old child, who had been left idle, had managed to get into the family car on April 11 but had failed to reopen the doors as they had become locked. The parents had thought the child was with their other children, and had not hear his cries from inside the hot and stifling car. They found the boy two hours later but too late to save his life. 

The Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children had 54 admissions between April 13-15, the hospital’s director Dr. Rathnasiri A. Hewage, said.

“We are happy to say that we see a significant decrease in the number of cases reported this year from the last. Nevertheless, we see that most of these incidents were reported while the children were in their homes,” he said, indicating that parents should take special precautions at such times.

Adults too had their share of Avurudu injuries. Mother-of-two Nadeera Thilakarathne had to spend part of her New Year holiday at Colombo National Hospital after falling and injuring herself just as she was nearing the finish line of a game on April 16.

Ms. Thilakarathne had been enjoying a get-together with her family members and relatives when they decided to play some traditional games as they did every year during the New Year holidays. This turned out to be an unfortunate decision for her.
“This was not what I expected – spending the rest of our holidays in a hospital like this. Now the doctors tell me that I’ll have to stay in bed for a couple of months until I recover,” Ms. Thilakarathne said when the Sunday Times visited the hospital last Thursday.

Nadeera Thilakarathne: A traditional Avurudu race landed her in hospital. Pix by Indika Handuwala

Her case is one among 1081 accidents reported at hospitals between April 13-14, up from 1025 last year, National Hospital Director Dr. Anil Jasinghe, said. According to the Police Media Unit, 15 deaths were reported from April 13-16, four of them from drowning. Eight people were murdered, mostly in brawls.

In one case of violence, in the Ganga Siripura area in Tissamaharama, a man angered when his neighbours set off a sky-rocket that landed in his garden on the night of April 13 opened fire on them. The father, son and daughter of the family were rushed to Hambantota hospital with severe injuries and are recovering. The shooter and his wife, who allegedly assisted him, were arrested.

Police said 550 people had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol between April 13-14.  According to statistics collected by the Colombo National hospital, there were 75 alcohol-related accidents, 157 road traffic accidents, 120 home accidents and 189 injuries that occurred due to falls.

Dr Jasinghe said falls and sports injuries in Avurudu games – such as the injury suffered by Ms. Thilakarathne – caused a slight increase in accidents reported to the hospital this year. A total of 37 sports injuries this year marked an increase of 24 per cent from last year while falls had increased by 36 per cent.

Dr. Jasinghe said there would have been fewer sports accidents if people had worn protective gear when participating in traditional games.

“The problem is that we do not consider the risks of being injured when we do not wear such protective gear and since it’s a season where families, relatives and friends get together people are too preoccupied (with enjoying themselves to even think about this aspect,” he said. Meanwhile, people travelling to various parts of the island for the holidays reported being left miserable without adequate transportation.

“Since I had to work the day before the New Year we (my wife and I) decided to visit my parents on the 14th. We were taken aback when at the Rambukkana railway station we were told that trains were scarce that day and we had to get into a heavily crowded train – that killed the whole New Year spirit,” said Ramesh Rathnapriya, 32, from Rambukkana. 

“There were, indeed, fewer trains operating between April 13-14 because (our) employees failed to report to work as it was the holiday season, and since there wasn’t a crowd during these days,” said the Operating Superintend of the Railway Department, L. A. R. Ratnayake, adding that the train services for main towns had been in operation as usual.

The Railway Department and the Sri Lanka Transport Board are preparing special services for today, Sunday, as a large number of people are expected to return to Colombo at the end of the New Year holiday.  Mr. Ratnayake said special train services would function until tonight.

“As the schools are to reopen tomorrow and people on holiday will return from out-station we arranged more bus services island-wide for Saturday and Sunday,” the Deputy Chairman of Sri Lanka Transport Board, L. A. Wimalarathne, said.

Sweets sales perk up but fireworks fizzle out  

Flagging sales picked up during the latter part of the New Year. Sellers of sweetmeats and fruits told the paper there was a good demand for the treats. J. Asantha, a sweetmeat seller from Boralesgamuwa, said that he and other sellers had been able to sell more than 85 per cent of their goods.

“In the first week of April there were only a very small number of sales. We thought that we’ll have to throw our products away but luckily the following week was more profitable,” he said explaining that with their busy lifestyle many people preferred store-bought food. 

Fruit sellers from Maharagama said that a large number of people bought fruits, especially bananas, during the holiday season. “People from many areas came to buy fruits from us and there was a time when we were out of stock too. It was indeed a good time for most of the fruit sellers in the country,” said Jayalatha Manike, 57, who sells fruit from a wayside stall in Maharagama.

Liquor sellers were content with their Avurudu sales too, explaining that since they had been made to cease liquor sales in the days prior to New Year’s Day, people had bought alcohol beforehard in bulk. Sales of fireworks did not appear to have gone well. The owner of Walampuri Firecrackers in Pettah, Mr. Chandrakumar, said that there had been a 40 per cent drop in his sales of fire-crackers.

“Even though we expected people to buy most of our goods, they didn’t. Usually the sales used to increase during the last two days but this year it wasn’t the case,” he said.

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