Floods displace thousands, destroy homes

Families reeling from the impact of the heaviest rains in 18 years say state help isn’t coming fast enough and rescue efforts are stalling
Hundreds of people across the country were displaced by the flooding caused by the heaviest rains in 18 years. The floods damaged property and crops and claimed lives. Puttalam, Mannar, Moneragala and Kurunegala are the worst hit districts in the recent rains.


An overflowing Deduru Oya has displaced 2,811 families – 13,840 men women and children – in the Chilaw, Mahawewa, Arachchikattuwa and Pallama areas. Meanwhile, spillover from the Kala Oya has displaced residents in Puttalam, Wanathavillu, Nawagaththegama and Karuwalagswewa, and destroyed vegetation in the area.

The worst hit by flooding in Puttalam are the 1,807 families that live on land along the Deduru Oya. The wells and cesspits are overflowing and causing health problems.

Other flood victims include 455 families in the Arachchikattuwa area; 120 families in Pallama; and 429 families in Mahawewa. Residents complain that state officials are indifferent to their plight, and that water-borne diseases are already a threat.

Villagers say their homes are flooded every few years, but officials are deaf to their calls for assistance.

Fourteen of the 20 sluice gates of the Karuwalagaswewa Thabbowa tank have been opened, releasing 3,000 cubic feet of water per second, according to Puttalam Irrigation Engineer, R. C. Jayasinghe. Consequently, the Rada Oya has overflowed, cutting off 68 families in the Thambapanni Grama Niladhari division.

Six sluice gates of the Anamaduwa Inginimitiya tank have been opened, releasing 6,000 cubic feet of water per minute, resulting in the flooding of Pawattamaduwa.

Albert Fernando, a resident in a village by the Deduru Oya, said destructive floods occur every few years, but officials have done nothing about the problem, despite repeated pleas to have channels built to let out excess water. “If there were waterways, the damage from this flood would have been minimal,” he said.

District Secretary Kingsley Fernando said families affected by the floods are being supplied with dry rations and meals. He said three houses were destroyed and 16 houses damaged by the floods.
“The Ministry of Disaster Management has already started the process to compensate victims,” Mr. Fernando said.

Navy rescue bid fails

Five Navy officers and two civilians had a narrow escape when the navy rescue boat they were travelling in got caught up in the currents and capsized in Chilaw.

The officers, attached to the naval base in Puttalam, had set out to rescue 64 families marooned in Pathgovuwa. The families had rushed to high ground when the Rada Ela started to overflow.

The area surrounding the village is 15 feet under water. Should the rains continue, the trapped families may have a long wait before they are taken to safety.


Roads that have gone under water have cut off residents of Iranaiirupakulam, Kalaikulam, Panasakulam, Periyawalayikkattu and other areas from the rest of Mannar district.

Residents live in constant fear of rising water levels.

Recently resettled families in the villages of Nagadalu, Neelasenai, Periyawagakulam and Sri Nagakulan have been especially badly hit. The temporary shelters they were occupying have collapsed under the weight of the rains and the floods.

The village of Thalai Mannar is completely flooded and the villagers have sought shelter in churches and schools. People in the Wanni are abandoning their homes and moving to safe ground in elevated areas.

An estimated 1,500 acres of paddy land in Mannar district have been destroyed by the rains and the floods.


The opening of sluice gates in the Bathalagoda Wewa has caused overflowing in the Deduru Oya and flooding in Chilaw. If the rains continue over the next few days, the water level will rise and cause more flooding.

The overflowing Maguru Oya, Kolamunu Oya and Deduru Oya have destroyed 24 houses, damaged more than 60 houses and displaced 2,664 families.

A partially constructed tank connecting the Deduru Oya with the Maguru Oya and the Kumbulwana Oya has caused a flooding problem – the dam is blocking receding waters. Many houses in the vicinity of the Deduru Oya have been destroyed.


Moneragala residents have experienced the worst flooding in more than 20 years. The Maragala Oya overflowed on Friday, destroying four houses and damaging 44. An overflowing Kumbukkamn Oya has damaged 20 houses and caused damage to gardens and fields.

One person was reported drowned in the Ibbanna Oya, in Lunugala. Water has entered several stores in Moneragala, while hotels and telecommunication centres have reported a sharp drop in business.
A house on the Wellawaya-Moneragala main road has been destroyed.

Fifty families in Kokumbura, in the Bibile area, have been told to be ready to abandon their homes at a moment’s notice in case of deadly earth slips.

The Moneragala Disaster Management Unit is distributing dry rations and meals among displaced families.

Reporting by Hiran Priyankara, Jayasinghe, Jayaratne Wickremarachchi, P. Anthony, Sumanasiri Gunetilleka and Pushpa Weerasekara.

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