Deluge after deluge, devastating horror

Million made homeless, 13 die in second major flood within weeks
By Leon Berenger

At least 13 people have been killed and a million rendered homeless after raging flood waters hit the Northern, Eastern and North Central provinces for the second time in less than a month, while the security forces have been rushed to the affected areas for emergency rescue work.

The worst-hit was the sacred city of Anuradhapura which was yesterday declared a no-go-zone after nearly all its main roads went under water, making access in and out of the area difficult, the town’s Mayor, Kithsiri Caldera, said.

He said the city’s main town square had been spared Deluge after so far but the flood waters were less than two kilometres away on all sides and moving forward. Among the roads that had gone under water were the vital A9 highway that linked the city to the northern peninsula and Jayanthi Mawatha that led to the Sri Maha Bodhi, he said.

“At present, the town is safe, but should the rains continue overnight any thing could happen,” the mayor warned. Apart from the roads the main central jail was also emptied of its inmates after the complex took in some four feet of water. The prisoners were later transferred to Kandy and Colombo.

Most offices and business establishments have remained closed with public transport service reduced to a trickle and very few people entering the main town, residents said. Elsewhere in the affected areas, the main Dambulla-Habarana-Trincomalee roads have also been cut off owing to the flood water.

Disaster Management Centre (DMC) official Pradeep Kodippili said about one million people had already been affected by the floods that had hit three Provinces leaving some 10,000 homes destroyed or partially damaged. He said the displaced people were being housed in 543 camps. He said among the fatal tragedies was one in Trincomalee where a naval rating and four civilians were washed away and later declared dead after their rescue boat capsized in the swirling waters.

Meanwhile, the Navy has deployed some 40 lifesaving teams in the affected areas to assist in the rescue efforts as hundreds of people are reported to be marooned in several low-lying areas, Navy spokesperson Kosala Warnakulasooriya said. He said that each team comprised seven men including two professional divers along with motorized craft.

He said the Navy was concentrating on the Anuradhapura district where a large number of people were stranded in remote villages and risk being washed away if the flood waters rose. The Air Force, on its part, has so far rescued some 35 people in the Anuradhapura area including a pregnant mother who gave birth to a baby while on board. Air Force spokesperson Janaka Nanayakkara said that seven helicopters had been put into a round-the-clock rescue operation in the affected areas, and they were concentrating on carrying food supplies.

He said four helicopters were put into operation in the Anurdhapura district, two in Hingurakgoda and one in Batticaloa. “Dry rations are being airdropped wherever it is not possible to land. Pilots have sighted people surrounded by water. It is in these places that the food is being airdropped,” the spokesman said. So far the Air Force had delivered some 22,000 kilograms of dry rations and other essential items to the stranded people, he said.

The Government meanwhile has appealed for international aid as the number of displaced persons continued to increase, Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said. In the floods that hit the same districts nearly three weeks ago at least 43 persons were killed and about a million people made homeless.

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