Sri Lanka’s Flood Survivors Threatened by Dengue, Disease – Aid Workers

Outbreaks of diseases such as dengue fever and cholera, and illnesses like diarrhea and dysentery, are often a threat in the aftermath of floods due to water-logging, writes Nita Bhalla for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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.

NEW DELHI, May 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Thousands of survivors of devastating floods and landslides in Sri Lanka are at risk of potentially fatal diseases such as dengue fever, charities warned on Monday as the death toll from the disaster continued to rise.

Torrential rains over the last four days have sparked widespread flooding and triggered landslides in southwestern parts of the Indian Ocean island. At least 177 people have died and almost half a million others have had their lives disrupted.

As search and rescue teams look for more than 100 people who remain missing, and Sri Lanka’s military in boats and helicopters struggle to reach marooned villagers with food and clean water, charities are warning of a looming health threat.

“The threat of water-borne diseases is a big concern with over 100,000 people displaced from their homes, many of whom are staying in damp, crowded conditions,” Chris McIvor, head of Save the Children Sri Lanka, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I’m particularly worried we could start seeing even more dengue cases because of the floods, as stagnant water provides the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. It’s the last thing needed by communities that have already lost so much.”

Outbreaks of diseases such as dengue fever and cholera, and illnesses like diarrhea and dysentery, are often a threat in the aftermath of floods due to water-logging, say experts.

Dengue is common in South Asia, especially during the monsoon season which runs from June to September, and if untreated, it can kill.

Sri Lanka’s ministry of disaster management says almost 558,000 people from 15 of the country’s 25 districts have been hit by the disaster. Villages and towns have been inundated, thousands of homes damaged and agriculture land swamped.

Around 75,000 people in the worst-affected districts have been relocated to temporary shelters.

The Sri Lanka authorities have called for international assistance to help with search and rescue efforts, and have also appealed for aid ranging from boats, generators and mobile toilets to mosquito nets, clothes and clean drinking water.

But aid workers say reaching survivors remains a challenge. Entire communities remain marooned, living out in the open as their homes have been destroyed, with roads submerged under water or blocked by landslides.

“Getting in to these communities is of the highest priority right now so we can find out exactly what the needs are and respond,” said McIvor.

“At the same time more rains are predicted since we are only at the start of the south west monsoon season, so the situation could worsen even more over the coming days and weeks.”

Reporting by Nita Bhalla, editing by Belinda Goldsmith for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters.

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