Sri Lanka – Deadly Floods and Landslides After 355mm of Rain in 24 Hours

An area of low pressure above Sri Lanka has caused heavy rainfall across the country since 14 May 2016. Some locations saw over 350 mm (13.77 inches) of rain fall in 24 hours. Floods and landslides have caused havoc in as many as 19 districts of the country, including around Colombo. Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology say in a 24 hour period 15 to 16 May, Colombo recorded 256 mm of rain. According to WMO figures, the mean total rainfall for Colombo in April is 245.6 mm

Strong winds, lightning and falling trees have also caused major damage.

Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC) report said that since 13 May, over 200,000 people have been affected, with 134,000 currently displaced and staying in 176 relief camps set up for the victims. Almost 1,300 homes have been damaged and 68 destroyed.

DMC said in a report yesterday that at least 8 people have died in the severe weather since 13 May, with at least 9 more still missing. One person died in floods in Wattala, Gampaha, Western Province. Four of the deaths occurred after a landslide in Dehiovita, Kegalle, Sabaragamuwa Province.

The other three victims died in separate incidents; one as a result of a fallen tree, another after lightning strike, and the third as a result of electrocution from fallen power cables.

DMC officials added that 2 people are missing after a landslide in Imbulpe, Ratnapura, also in Sabaragamuwa Province.

The Sri Lanka Army say that they are carrying out search and rescue operations in Ilukwaththa, Ranmalaka, Pilimathalawa, Kandy District, where a landslide destroyed two houses, burying six people, late on 16 May 2016.

Flood Defences

Teams from Sri Lanka navy have been drafted in to help shore up flood defences, including around the country’s Parliament Complex, which was threatened by floods from the rising levels of Diyawanna Lake.

Further naval personnel were deployed for flood relief duties in Thalduwa, Rajagiriya, Wellampitiya, Malwana and Kegalle areas.

Rainfall and Forecast

Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology say that, during a 24 hour period between 15 and 16 May, Deraniyagala recorded 355.5 mm of rain, Colombo 256 mm, Katunayake 262mm, Ratmalana 190mm, Mannar 185.5 mm and Trincomalee 182.4 mm.

Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology said earlier today the situation I likely to improve over the next 24 hours, although some further rainfall is expected. In a statement today, they said:

“The low pressure area has moved away from the island and rainy conditions will gradually reduce during next few days as the system is further moving away from the island. However, strong windy conditions, particularly in the sea areas around the island will continue further.

“Showers or thunder showers will occur at times in the Northern, North-central, North-Western, Western, Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces and in the Galle and Matara districts.

“Heavy falls (more than 100 mm) are likely at some places.
Showers or thunder showers will occur at several places elsewhere.

“There may be temporary localized strong winds during thundershowers. General public is kindly requested to take adequate precautions to minimize damages caused by lightning activity”.

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Lightning Strikes Kill 60 in Bangladesh Thunderstorms

Severe weather is also affecting countries further north. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) reported yesterday that a staggering 60 people have been killed as a result of lightning strike in Bangladesh over the last few days, with experts blaming increased deforestation in Bangladesh.  ECHO say:

“A week long heatwave in Bangladesh with average temperatures well above 30 degrees, culminated the last two days in thunderstorms across the country. The storms, locally known as Nor’westers or the Kalbaishakhi, came with heavy lightning which left more than 60 people dead, most in the rural parts of the country.

“Experts say that this highly unusual number of fatalities is due to the increased deforestation in Bangladesh. If the number of deaths continues to escalate, as more thunderstorms are predicted, Bangladesh could be moving towards calling the event a natural disaster”.

Voice of America also reported that deforestation had played a role. VoA said:

“Gawher Nayeem Wahr, member-secretary of the Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Forum, said the decreasing number of tall trees has a role in the increase in number of people being injured or killed by lightning strikes.

“Palm and other taller trees usually attract the lightning flashes. But with these trees becoming scarce in rural areas” people are more prone to be hit, Wahr said.”

Flood Summary

Last updated: July 22, 2016
Sri Lanka, May 2016
May 13 to May 19, 2016
Inland flood, Landslide
Extreme rainfall
22 districts of Sri Lanka were afected by heavy rain, floods and landslides between 13 and 19 May 2016.


Aranayaka Landslide, Kegalle District


Rainfall level
355 mm in 24 hours
Deraniyagala - May 15 to May 16, 2016


92 people
Buildings destroyed
502 buildings