Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Many victims still cut off from help

177 dead,109 missing

by Maheesha Mudugamuwa- 
A Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) helicopter, which was carrying flood relief items, had to make an emergency landing at Baddegama yesterday morning due to a technical fault.

SLAF Media Spokesman Wing Commander Gihan Seneviratne told the media in Colombo that SLAF’s MI17 helicopter had crashed into water while making the emergency landing.

There had been ten air-force personnel on board and none of them were injured. However, the SLAF had managed to distribute the relief materials on board by using boats, Seneviratne said.

He noted that the damage to the helicopter had not yet been evaluated and the SLAF would continue its flood relief efforts despite the incident.

Seneviratne said the SLAF had been able to reach Ayagama in Ratnapura, which was isolated due to flooding of all roads leading to it till yesterday.

Over half a million people were displaced by the extreme weather in addition to thousands of those who were evacuated, according to the statistics of the Disaster Management Centre (DMC).

As rescue operations continued for the fourth-day yesterday, some people were marooned at several locations without access to any relief. The military teams were striving to help the by using helicopters and boats.

The death toll from the four days of severe floods and landslides in the southern and western parts of the country had now increased to 177 while the number of missing people had increased to 109, DMC said.

The government feared the actual figures could be much higher.

Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardene placed the number of affected people from landslides, floods, heavy showers and high winds at 574,000 (144,000 families). He told the media yesterday that the number would increase during next few days.

According to the DMC, 109 people are currently being treated in several hospitals. Most of the victims were killed by landslides when their hillside houses were buried under mud and rocks.

Minister Abeywardena said the relief operations were ongoing with the assistance of the Police, Army, Navy and Air Force.

He said the Nilwala and Gin dams were at a risk of bursting due floods on Sunday, but the situation had been brought under control with the assistance of about 600 army personal.

Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya stressed that Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) was restoring the electricity supply cut-off due to floods.

In Ratnapura 110,000 houses are still without electricity besides 136,000 houses in Matara, 40,000 houses each in Galle and Kalutara and 60,000 houses in Ratnapura.

Siyambalapitiya asked the public to inform the CEB of power failures on its emergency contact number 011-3030303.

Meanwhile, Army (SLA) Spokesman Brigadier Roshan Seneviratne said the SLA troops on rescue operations had reached Kalawana and Pahiyangala after clearing roads leading to it. The armed forces had also been placed at Panapitiya-Bolgoda dam as there was a risk of it collapsing due to heavy rains. They were working closely with Irrigation Department’s engineers to stabilise the dam, the SLA Spokesman said.

The army requested people not to visit disaster-hit areas.

Sri Lanka Navy Media Spokesman Lieutenant Commander Chaminda Walakuluge said the Navy had deployed 114 teams in rescue operations with 721 navy men and it had successfully rescued the lives of 8,156 people so far.

The Navy had received three Indian vessels with 71 Indian rescue officers including medical teams, he said, adding that they were providing assistance to the flood hit people together with Sri Lanka Navy.

Friday’s flooding was the worst the country had experienced since 2003, when 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes were destroyed. Last May, a massive landslide killed more than 100 people in the central part of the country.

The Meteorology Department yesterday predicted heavy showers of about 100mm on Western and Sabaragamuwa Provinces today and tomorrow with rains spreading through Central and North Western part of the country. Heavy showers are expected in the Sabaragamuwa and the Western Provinces, where the Met department predicted more showers expecting in to Ratnapura and Kalutara Districts.

Asked whether they could give district-wise predictions which would be more reliable to the people, Met Department’s Weather Forecasting and Early Warning Director Athula Karunanayake said the Department had no facilities to do so and its predictions were for provinces.

Highlighting the cyclonic storm "MORA" Karunanayake said the storm had no direct impact on Sri Lanka.

Rough seas would also be expected due to cyclonic condition in Bay of Bengal the North and Western parts of the coastal belt would experience high winds, he said. In addition, thunder showers was also expected today and tomorrow.

The current flood situation triggered by heavy showers was due to the activations of southwest monsoon.

The monsoon period would last till September but the rains would not last all throughout the southwest monsoon, he noted.

There was a possibility of reducing rains after June (03), he added.

The National Building Research Organization (NBRO) Landslides Research and Disaster Management Division Director R M S Bandara said landslides warning had been extended till today to eight districts including Ratnapura, Galle, Kegalle, Kalutara, Matara, Hambantota and Nuwara Eliya and people were urged to be vigilant on any signs of landslides.

Bandara said the NBRO had received 350 landslides observation requests––202 from Ratnapura, 60 from Galle, 17 from Gampaha and 32 from Kalutara.

The NBRO officers had been rushed to those places but as roads were still inundated in some areas their work was hampered, Bandara said.

The NBRO requests people to leave their homes immediately if they notice any signs of landslides till the officers investigate and declare the areas safe.

Bandara noted that the investigations in 113 locations had already been completed.