Floods play havoc with people and property
By Nalaka Nonis.
Despite floods having receded and normalcy being gradually being restored in flood affected areas, authorities had not still been able to assess the overall damage to infrastructure facilities and other properties caused by the recent floods and landslides in the country.

Roads, electricity, water lines, bridges, schools, telecommunication lines and tea factories had been severely damaged by the floods and landslides while the losses may be in the region of billions of rupees.

The respective District Secretariats of Ratnapura, Matara and Galle districts which were badly affected by the floods and landslides told The Sunday Times that they were still receiving reports with regard to damages and it may take a couple of weeks more to finalize the assessment of overall damages to infrastructure facilities and other properties.

However, with regard to certain categories of damages, the District Secretariats have received estimates. The Ratnapura District Secretariat estimates the damages caused to roads to be some 231 million rupees. Of this about 133 million rupees had been due to damages to rural roads under the control of the Pradeshiya Sabha, while the damages to roads under the control of the Provincial Councils and Municipal Councils total 83 and 15 million rupees respectively.

Damages to school buildings in Ratnapura district had been estimated at 21 million rupees while the damages to school equipment at seven million rupees. One of the sectors that was badly affected by the floods and landslides in the Ratnapura district had been the irrigation. The loss due to damages to the minor irrigation works is estimated at 2.5 million rupees while the estimated damage to the rural water supply is 3.6 million rupees. 6.9 million rupees worth of damages had been caused to the major water supply.

The value of the damages to telecommunication, electricity and agriculture had not been finalized, though it too may be more than a few millions of rupees. Especially at Kalawana in Ratnapura most mini hydro schemes and rural electrification schemes had been damaged.

In the Matara district the damage to roads maintained by the Pradeshiya Sabha had been estimated at 1984 million rupees and the damage to roads belonging to the Provincial Council is 174 million rupees.

Seventy telephone posts in the Matara district had been completely damaged while electricity posts and water lines have been seriously affected. Especially in Urubokka a large number of electricity posts had fallen down due to landslides. Further all the documents at the Athuraliya Divisional Secretariat of Matara district were completely destroyed by the floods.

In the Galle district it was the telecommunication lines and bridges that were worst affected by floods. The number of telecommunication lines that were damaged are 2104. Twelve concrete bridges, 14 suspension bridges and five wooden bridges were also damaged.

Eleven mini power stations sustained heavy damages while five tea factories had been seriously affected. According to the National Gem and Jewellery Authority, the overall damage caused by the recent floods to the gem industry in Sabaragamuwa Province is estimated at Rs. 33.6 million. 57,000 miners have been affected due to floods and have temporally lost their jobs.

The Government had taken steps to build 100 houses for the affected miners through funds collected from gem merchants, dealers and exporters. Meanwhile the insurance companies in the flood-hit areas have been kept busy by the people who were affected by the floods and landslides. An official for the National Insurance Corporation in Matara told The Sunday Times that there was a marked increase in claims received by them.

Conjunctivitis soon after the floods
An outbreak of conjunctivitis is being reported from several parts of the country including those areas devastated by last week's floods, the Health Ministry said.
Health Services Deputy Director Dr. Terrence de Silva said the ministry has received reports of an increasing number of people afflicted by conjunctivitis from various parts of the country, while in the flood-hit areas, sporadic cases of diarrhoea was also reported.

Health camps and other preventive measures carried out in the Sabaragamuwa, Southern and Western provinces to control the outbreak of communicable diseases had proven effective in evading epidemics or any serious outbreak.

Matara's Deputy Provincial Director of Health Services Dr. J.B. Senarath said that however in Matara where the water levels receded much later a total of 81 diarrheoa cases had been reported since May 20. Cases of conjunctivitis was also high with 68 reported during the same period, while eight cases of dysentery and four cases of chickenpox had been brought to the notice of health authorities.

Conjunctivitis was spreading in the Galle district as well. Though 15-20 cases of diarrhoea had been reported in Ratnapura health officials said the situation was under control. In Kalutara, more than 60 mobile camps have been operating and this helps to contain the outbreak of disease at a low level. Dr. D. Ranatunga, Medical Officer in charge of maternal and child health said no communicable diseases have been reported at the moment.

Meanwhile he said the provincial health authorities have appointed an eight-member team comprising two Food and Drugs Inspectors and five PHIs to investigate food products that may be contaminated due to the recent floods. Dr. Ranatunga said that random checks were being carried out to ensure that food unsuitable for human consumption is not sold at outlets.

CP Chief Minister's funeral tomorrow
Funeral of the late Central Province Chief Minister W. M. P. B. Dissanayake will take place tomorrow at the Gampola Wickramabahu Central College. Mr. Dissanayake who became the Central Province Chief Minister in 2002 was 78 years old at the time of his death.

His body will be taken to the Central Provincial Council in Pallekele at 9.00 am tomorrow and will lie in state till 12.30 pm to allow people to pay their last respects.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe paid his last respects on Friday.

The wedding party that ended in pieces
By Chris Kamalendran
The wedding reception of a young businessman, dealing in motor spares, turned into a nightmare due to the alleged unruly behaviour of a UNP parliamentarian from the south who had allegedly assaulted the hotel staff and caused damage to hotel property.

Mahinda Seneviratne the bridegroom told The Sunday Times that the incident was a 'great embarrassment' to the newly married couple, relatives and guests, and that he was still apologising to those who were present for being inconvenienced. He said he reimbursed the hotel for the damages before leaving on his honeymoon.

Hambantota district MP, Dilip Wedaarachchi who was allegedly responsible for causing the disturbance was among the 200 invitees for the wedding reception held at hotel Hilton last Sunday.

'The function was proceeding smoothly with the band Sakura in attendance. It was near the witching hour of midnight when the band made an announcement to the effect that they would be ending the music in a short while as agreed with the hotel and the host. The MP is then reported to have walked up to the musical group and demanded that they continue playing more songs, but the group refused to do do', Mr. Seneviratne said.

'Accordingly the group wound up and started packing up their instruments. It was almost midnight. At this point the MP assaulted a person standing closer to the stage. He happened to be one of our employees who had also been invited for the wedding. We managed to rescue the employee and send him out of the hall', he said.
'It was then that the MP started breaking up plates and other glassware belonging to the hotel. The Chief steward made an attempt to intervene, but was himself assaulted by the MP', Mr. Seneviratne said.

By this time the MP was joined by some of his colleagues and most of the remaining guests started hurriedly leaving the place. The bridegroom and the bride were taken to safety.

Meanwhile Mr. Seneviratne was bitten on his hand, by a person who was with the parliamentarian. Even four days after the incident he still bore the scar.
The bridegroom's cousin Dhanushka Seneviratne explained that it not only caused a disturbance to their wedding but guests at an adjoining wedding reception too were also disturbed and some of them also started leaving.

'By this time the MP was attempting to smash a large glass door. We saw the hotel staff intervening to prevent it', he added. However by this time the MP too had been assaulted and he made a hurried escape towards the entrance. The Fort police had arrived and managed to bring the situation under control.

'At the hotel entrance the parliamentarian pulled out a weapon from his waist and opened fire into the air before being taken away together with his wife', Dhanushka an eyewitness to the incident said. The incident was one of the most embarrassing incidents. The bridegroom had to make a statement to the police who visited him at his room and pay some Rs. 32,000 as damages caused to the cutlery.

The bridegroom said that at the time the hotel reservation was being made the management had informed them that unruly behaviour should be avoided.
'We even carefully selected the guests to ensure there won't be any problems. We restricted the number of guests especially for this reason, but what happened was utterly unexpected', the bridegroom said.

Sakura band leader Ajith Vithanage told The Sunday Times that his group was interrupted by the MP and his supporters who stormed the stage, plucked their mikes and started hooting. 'It was then the trouble started. We noticed one of the invitees being assaulted', he said.

A spokesman for the Hotel told The Sunday Times that they were forced to call in the police due to the incident and during the the brawl the cutlery had been damaged.
Police investigating the incident have recorded the statement of Mr. Wedaarachchi on Thursday.

This is what the parliamentarian had to say: Hambantota district UNP MP, Dilip Wedararchchi says that the wedding party was that of his niece and he was one of those invited for the occasion.

'I attended the party with my family. Towards the end of the party the musical group stopped playing music. The youngsters who were among those invited wanted the music to be continue. A heated argument broke out between these youngsters and the musical group. At this stage the hotel stewards intervened and tried to resolve the dispute. At this point some of the hotel staff entered into an argument with these youngsters and this led to a quarrel', Mr. Wedararchchi said.

Mr. Wedaarachchi denied that he was involved in damaging the hotel property. My security officers who were waiting outside the door rushed in to take me and my family members away.

The security who feared that I would be attacked had opened fire into the air outside the entrance. The MP in his statement to the Fort police has denied that he opened fire into the air, but only that his security had done so.

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