By Maheesha Mudugamuwa
The death toll from last week’s natural disasters has risen to 82; it is expected to increase within the next few days as rescue operations continue to look for another 118 missing people, according to the Disaster Management Centre (DMC).
Meanwhile, 30 people have been confirmed dead due to the landslide in Aranayake and 114 others are missing. Another part of the same mountain at Aranayake in Kegalle District had crashed on Saturday, but there were no casualties as residents had been evacuated following the first landslides, an official said.
According to the DMC, 34,476 people have been affected by torrential rains widespread floods, landslides, mudslides and high winds in 22 districts during last week with 29 people injured. Over 476 houses have reportedly been destroyed and thousands of others damaged; many of them are still under water.
After a week of massive flooding triggered by heavy rains, deluged capital city Colombo, too, is slowly beginning to dry out.
The Irrigation Department yesterday announced that the water levels of the Kelani River were receding.
Irrigation Department Director of Hydrology P. Hettiarachchi said the water level measured at Nagalagam Street was 5 feet and 6 inches as at 9.00 am yesterday.
The department blamed illegal constructions on the river banks for heavy floods experienced in the Colombo region.
In the Colombo District, over 145,000 people are still at evacuation centres and most of them are from the worst hit areas of Kolonnawa, Thimbirigasyaya, Kaduwela, Seethawaka and Colombo, according to the statistics of the Disaster Management Centre (DMC). More than 147,000 people in Colombo District have been affected by floods.
Relief workers are still trying to gain access to thousands of marooned people in need of food and clean water. The logistics of delivering food and other aid to the displaced had become a critical issue, the DMC said. With roads impassable because of flooding, most efforts will continue to be carried out by boats.
Landslide warning issued to Ratnapura, Kegalle, Kalutara, Kandy, Kurunegala, Nuwara Eliya and Matale has been further extended by the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) and people living in landslide prone areas have been evacuated to safe locations.
The Meteorology Department yesterday pointed out that the weather was now returning to normal.
Asked whether the Southwest Monsoon was expected this week, the department’s Research, Training and Development Director S. Premalal told The Island that it couldn’t predict the due date of monsoon and it could only give predictions for next 24 hours.
On the second week of this month, the Met Department predicted a one-week delay in Southwest-monsoon reaching Sri Lanka this year due to the strong El Nino conditions that affected the country last year. Duty Meteorologist at the Met Department Janaka Kumara stated that due date for the monsoon was May 25, but this year it would reach the country during the first week of June.
The Met Department yesterday predicted showers in the Western, North-Western, Southern, Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces and strong windy conditions over the country and in the sea areas would continue further particularly over the Southern, Eastern and Northern sea areas.
According to the Secretary to the Disaster Management Ministry, S. S Miyanawala, a task force of security forces personnel and those from the Civil Security Division will launch operations in the coming days to re-settle the displaced people. The government had released Rs. 92 million to District Secretaries and a further Rs. 55 million was on standby, he said.
Meanwhile, the international assistance for victims of floods and landslides started to arrive in the country on Saturday, following an urgent government appeal for foreign aid. India, Australia, Japan the United States, Nepal, China and Pakistan were among the donor countries as at yesterday.
As floods are beginning to recede, the Health Ministry urged the public to be vigilant about diseases that could spread.
Director General of Health Services Dr. Palitha Mahipala said that with the flood waters receding there was a possibility of diseases such as diarrhoea, jaundice, typhoid, dengue and leptospirosis (rat fever) spreading through food and water.
He said awareness was important to prevent the spread of those diseases.