Thousands affected in hill country floods, landslides
Several areas in the upcountry have been hit by floods, a rare occurrence according to the Meteorological Department. More than 2,000 people have been affected, Disaster management Centre officials said yesterday.
In total 382 people were relocated in Nuwara Eliya and Kandy districts. Persons in Nuwara Eliya were temporary relocated at Tonbil Tamil Vidyalaya and Christmas Farmwatta while those in Kandy were gived shelter at the Nawalapitiya Madya Maha Vidyalaya, Karahadungala Mosque, Kandapitiya Mosque and Nawalapitiya West Community Center.
According to the Nuwara Eliya District Secretariat officials people in high risk areas will also be evacuated if the rains continue.
In addition during this week over 1500 people were affected by floods, landslides and high winds in Ratnapura District. By Friday night nearly 500 were displaced.
Over 60 houses were damaged in the three districts, up to yesterday.
Trains heading from Colombo to Badulla and Badulla to Colombo were suspended due to an earth slip. The Railway Control Room said they would keep a watch for such risks this week.
Following several days of torrential rains last week in the areas of Ratnapura, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, 26 deaths were reported and over 100,000 people were affected. The Meteorological Department warned that the pattern would continue for several days.
“What we are experiencing now are the monsoonal winds which are fairly strong in the Central and Sabaragamuwa regions. In addition South Western coastal areas such as Galle and Matara would experince strong winds and rains,” Meteorological Department Director L. Chandrapala said.
He said Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Ratnapura and Kegalle areas would experience frequent showers.
This week’s rains in the Elapatha, Kiriella and Ayagama areas in Ratnapura District that resulted in floods and landslides saw around 500 people being evacuated to temporary shelters in safer areas. The Army and Navy were also on standby in case of any emergency situation.
“What we mean by floods in Ratnapura is when the Kalu Ganga records a water level of over six metres. This week we had two situations with minor floods of 6.7 metres and 6.2 metres. We informed residents who would be affected to evacuate,” Ratnapura District Secretariat Sunil Kannangara said.
He said 16 of the 17 DS divisions were vulnerable to floods or landslides. Last week around 20,000 people were evacuated to temporary shelters, and dry rations and cooked food were provided to those affected.
In addition a bridge on the Rakwana- Deniyaya Road collapsed on Thursday (12). Though no injuries were reported traffic came to a standstill until vehicles were asked to take an alternative route.
“Rain may have played a part in this incident as the bridge was old. It is fortunate that no one was injured,” Mr. Kannangara said.
Meanwhile, the National Building Research Organization (NBRO) has warned residents in affected areas to be vigilant of landslides, floods and other mishaps that could arise. A senior scientist at NBRO, Kumari Weerasinghe said if rains continue in these areas the people will have to be moved to safer areas.
“We have warned all concerned parties. The Kegalle Kandurata Vidyalaya was closed on Friday after we alerted the authorities of the possible risks owing to the continuoal rains. We will continue to observe and warn people to minimize any harm to life and property,” she said.
Meanwhile the sluice gates were opened in reservoirs including the Upper Kotmale and Laxapana. The Disaster Management Center (DMC) Deputy Director (Media) Lal Sarath Kumara said four sluice gates of the Upper Kotmale and three in Laxapana were opened. He said residents were alerted before the gates were opened.
He added that by Friday the flood situation in most parts had normalised but the DMC would keep a watchful eye on the situation.
|Stranded families say little help came their way
Desperate families affected by the torrential rains complain that the government hads failed to provide them with timely relief.
Villagers of Kudaligama in Bulathsinhala say a majority of them have lost all that they had due to the floods but not all got aid and relief.
“A part of my house was damaged due to a landslide. We were asked to evacuate. No one came to see us or provide relief. We were desperate and had no place to go,” said 43- year old Lakshman Susantha.
He said some of the affected families were provided food but it didn’t reach those in higher areas.
“They simply tell us not to stay but where can we go? Where are the politicians who did not mind the rain during elections times?” he asked.
In the face of little or no government relief some residents had formed groups to help the affected people. M. S. M Hazeem a teacher at Veyangalla Muslim Maha Vidyalaya had joined one of these groups.
“We helped the people in Veyangalla, a village near Agalawatta which was flooded due to the heavy rains last week. There are at least 750 families living in the village,” Mr. Hazeem said.
He said the school’s teachers and the area mosque’s board of trustees, along with an area businessman of the area helped to provide food.
However Kalutara District Secretary U. G. C. Jayalal denied this and said the government was doing all that it could.
“Now the rains have stopped and we are helping families to clean up the areas and rebuild their houses. Dry rations are being provided to affected families,” he said.