National Buildings Research Organisation issues warning
Continuous rain, earthslips may trigger big disaster
By Marisa de Silva
With the North East monsoon nearly upon us, heavy rains have already triggered minor landslides in the western slope of the country during the past two weeks. The situation is bound to progressively worsen if similar weather conditions persist, warns the National Buildings Research Organisation (NBRO).
The worst landslide was reported from Kahawatte this week and authorities say it was triggered by a cutting failure (when a high bank/bund behind a house breaks down and gets washed downhill). This landslide made the Poranuwa road (a road in the area) impassable and prompted the authorities to evacuate eleven families in the vicinity, said R.M.S. Bandara, head of Landslide Studies and Services Division of the NBRO.

He said it was still not safe to undertake any task to clear the area because minor earthslips were taking place due to the continuous rain.
Mr. Bandara said they advised four families in this area to leave during the rains last year but only two families had done so.

The two families that remained were among the 11 families that were evacuated last week, he said. According to NBRO data, about 8-10 significant cutting failures have been reported to the NBRO during the past two weeks from the Pelmadulla, Nivithigala, Kahawatte, Matale, Ginigathhena, Kalutara and Ratnapura areas.

“There have been no major landslides so far, as the rains mostly comprised scattered showers and not day-long torrential downpours. There have been no casualties or great damage done to property thus far. Only some roads have been blocked or deemed unsafe.

“However, if these weather patterns were to change and heavy rainfall does occur especially in landslide prone areas such as the Kandy, Kegalle, Ratnapura, Kalutara, Matara, Galle, Hambantota and Nuwara Eliya Districts, bigger landslides are likely to occur in these areas,” Mr. Bandara said.
Asked about the NBRO’s disaster preparedness measures, Mr. Bandara said it was not feasible to evacuate all the people as the NBRO could not predict when a landslide might occur.

“But we’ve cautioned villagers in vulnerable areas to look out for tell-tale signs of impending landslides, like tension cracks widening on their house walls or floors and mud springs appearing near their homes. People who have a high bank or bund bordering their houses should also be wary. Furthermore, the NBRO also issues warnings via the media. Divisional Secretariats can also take emergency measures such as evacuating villagers and inform us thereafter,” Mr. Bandara said.

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