Sri Lanka Battles to Get Relief to Stranded Flood-Hit Villages

Persistent rains and inaccessible roads were hampering efforts to airdrop and distribute aid in some areas, by Shihar Aneez and Nita Bhalla

Mahieash Johnney / Sri Lanka Red Cross Society / IFRC
Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers engaging in the distribution of non food relief items once again in the district of Kalutara.

COLOMBO/NEW DELHI, May 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Heavy rains, highways buried under landslides and roads submerged under water are hampering efforts to get food, water and medicines to thousands of flood survivors in Sri Lanka, government officials and aid workers said on Tuesday.

The floods and landslides, triggered by torrential rains in recent days, have killed some 200 people and disrupted the lives of over half million others. Over 80,000 people have been forced into temporary shelters and around 100 people remain missing.

Government and military officials said the army and air force – using boats and helicopters – had managed to reach most of those affected, but persistent rains and inaccessible roads were hampering efforts to airdrop and distribute aid in some areas.

“The military was able to facilitate access to three landslide areas only yesterday. Hundreds of army personnel were deployed to remove the soil mounts from the landslides,” military spokesman Roshan Seneviratne told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The deluge, the worst Sri Lanka has witnessed in more than a decade, has forced the island to call for international assistance. The U.N., aid agencies, as well as India, China, Pakistan, Australia and Japan, have rallied to offer support.

The flooding has swept away hundreds of buildings and homes and inundated major roads, bridges and vast tracts of farmland – including tea and rubber plantations.

Military officials said they were still trying to access some remote villages in the worst affected districts of Galle, Matara, Kalutara and Rathnapura in the island’s south, but said that local communities have come forward to help.

“There were some areas which we could not reach in the first 36 hours. Local people helped a lot in the aftermath of the disaster. There were also committed officials at a grassroots level who managed to cope with the situation,” Law Minister Sagala Ratnayake told a news conference.

Aid workers said the focus was slowly shifting from search and rescue to relief and recovery — where people were returning to their homes from the temporary camps and would need help to rebuild their homes and livelihoods.

“They are returning to significantly damaged property where they have lost many of their belongings, where the water may be contaminated and where the crops they had in the ground have been destroyed,” said Save the Children’s country director Chris McIvor.

Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Nita Bhalla, editing by Ros Russell for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Flood Summary

Last updated: June 7, 2017
Event
Sri Lanka, May to June 2017
Date
May 24, 2017
Type
Landslide, River flood
Cause
Extreme rainfall

Locations

A - Rathnapura
B - Elapatha
C - Pelmadulla
D - Yakkalamulla
E - Moneragala
F - Kalutara
G - Trincomalee
H - Hambantota
I - Galle
J - Gampaha
K - Batticaloa
L - Vavuniya
M - Mullaitivu
N - Matara
O - Matale
P - Kandy

Magnitude

River level
6.29 metres
Kalu Ganga at Ratnapura - May 25 to May 25, 2017
alert level is 5.2 metres
River level
4.83 metres
Kalu Ganga at Milakanda - May 25 to May 25, 2017
alert level is 3.5
River level
4.1 metres
Gin Ganga at Baddegama - May 25 to May 25, 2017
Alert level is 3.5
River level
3.96 metres
Nilwala Ganga at Pitabeddara - May 25 to May 25, 2017
Alert level is 3 m
River level
6.78 metres
Nilwala Ganga at Panadugama - May 25 to May 25, 2017
Alert level is 5 m
Rainfall level
133.1 mm in 24 hours
Ratnapura - May 24 to May 25, 2017
All rainfall figures from WMO
Rainfall level
162.9 mm in 24 hours
Galle - May 24 to May 25, 2017
Rainfall level
50.3 mm in 24 hours
Anuradhapura - May 24 to May 25, 2017
Rainfall level
64 mm in 24 hours
Maha Illuppallama - May 24 to May 25, 2017
Rainfall level
84.2 mm in 24 hours
Vavuniya - May 24 to May 25, 2017
Rainfall level
70 mm in 24 hours
Ratmalana - May 24 to May 25, 2017
Rainfall level
76 mm in 24 hours
Colombo - May 24 to May 25, 2017
Rainfall level
383.7 mm in 24 hours
Ratnapura - May 25 to May 26, 2017
Rainfall level
304 mm in 24 hours
Diyatalawa - May 25 to May 26, 2017
Rainfall level
79.9 mm in 24 hours
Hambantota - May 25 to May 26, 2017
Rainfall level
50.5 mm in 24 hours
Galle - May 25 to May 26, 2017
Rainfall level
51.1 mm in 24 hours
Nuwara Eliya - May 25 to May 26, 2017

Damages

Fatalities
212 people
May 25 to June 5, 2017
Buildings destroyed
2,313
May 25 to June 5, 2017
12,529 houses damaged
Evacuated
101,638
May 25 to May 28, 2017
24,603 families in 319 displacement camps / safe locations. As of 31 May this figure had fallen to approximately 73,561 people belonging to 19,019 families located at 354 safe locations. By 05 June the figure stood at 24,962 people in 226 displacement camps.
Injured
131 people
May 25 to June 5, 2017
Missing people
79 people
May 25 to June 5, 2017