Floods force a million Sri Lankans from homes


COLOMBO – Flooding in Sri Lanka has forced more than one million people out of their homes, the government said on Thursday as it began distributing emergency food, clothing and bedding. At least 23 people have died during a week of monsoon floods, with the centre and east of the island worst hit by rising water levels and mudslides.
A spokesman for the disaster management centre in Colombo said the eastern district of Batticaloa, which saw bloody fighting in the civil war that ended in 2009, was badly affected after heavier than usual seasonal rains. “Some 541,000 people have been displaced in Batticaloa district alone where we have set up 275 camps to accommodate them,” the spokesman said, adding that a total of 1,081,000 people have been displaced.
More than 350,000 people have taken shelter in state-run relief camps while other displaced people have moved to higher ground, often staying with friends or relatives, he said. Retired school principal K Ratnavel, 63, said half of the coastal village of Ailadivembu, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) south of the Batticaloa town, was under water. “My house is under six feet (two metres) of water and I moved into a government building with my wife and three children,” Ratnavel told AFP by telephone. “We only have the clothes we are wearing. Everything else is lost.”
“There are about 15,000 people at the local council office where we are sheltering and most of them need clothing.” He said many homes devastated by the December 2004 tsunami were affected by floods. Rising water and continued rain have swamped vast tracks of land and cut off villages, television pictures showed.
President Mahinda Rajapakse said in remarks published in the state-run Daily News that it was “the duty of all to join hands and help them (the victims) at this hour of need without any discrimination or petty considerations.”