On Flooding and Disaster Management

Photo courtesy www.facebook.com/battipeople

Over the last two days, torrential rainstorms in the Central and Eastern province have caused severe flooding, landslides and an overwhelming humanitarian crisis with 758,000 people affected island-wide (according to the latest update at 7:14AM today from the Disaster Mangement Centre [via JNW]) 809 houses have been fully damaged and 2948 houses have been partially damaged. There have been nine deaths; nine injuries and four people are still missing (last update Sunday evening.)

An article in the Daily Mirror details the extent of the crisis,

According to the Centre (Disaster Management) some 55,936 families belonging to 14,519 families have been displaced and had been housed at 138 camps that have been opened.  Several Divisional Secretariat offices in the East were also reportedly under water while Badulla District Secretary Keerthi Disasnayake was also reportedly marooned as a result of a land slide which occurred along the Badulla-Mahinyangana Road.

The following areas in the country have been affected by the floods: Batticaloa, Polonnaruwa, Nuwara Eliya, Moneragala, Badulla, Kegalle and Kandy.

The Sri Lankan Army, Air Force and Navy have deployed teams for immediate rescue and relief operations. The latest update by Daily Mirror reveals that the Air Force has rescued 22 people that were stranded in the Thoppigala area and 1500 SLA troops have been deployed in the east to assist with rescue operations:

An SLAF MI-17 helicopter was also engaged in distributing dry rations and other needs in the Thoppigala area in Batticaloa that was severely affected by rains. The SLAF was using MI-17 and Bell 212 helicopters to assist the flood victims, he said. The Sri Lanka Army has set up four camps in Wellaveli, Maduru Oya, Dehiaththakandiya and Valaichchenai to assist flood victims while 1500 troops have being deployed to the east to assist the ongoing distribution of dry rations and provide medical assistance, Military spokesman Major General Ubaya Medawala said.

In Wellaveli 1000 persons, in Maduru Oya 25 families, in Dehiaththakandiya 17 families and in Valaichchenai 2000 persons were provided with medical assistance, clothes and dry rations by the army.

Update: The Air Force and Army have stepped up rescue and relief operations. As of 11:00 AM today, the Air Force delivered 2.5 tonnes of dry rations in Batticaloa.

Update at 4:40 PM (via Daily Mirror Mobile Alert): “Three more bodies of landslide victims from Gatambe found bringing total to seven. Bad weather destroyed 132,000 acres of paddy in the East and NCP.”

There has been no confirmation on the exact death toll as yet.

Update at 4:45PM: Seven people have been rescued by the Air Force in Rambakanoya, Ampara (via Ada Derana.) The Daily Mirror has published aerial photographs of terrain affected by the floods and photographs from an air rescue by the Air Force.

The Editors of Groundviews received the following images of the flooding and damages to roads in Batticaloa.

Courtesy of www.facebook.com/battipeople More images can be viewed on that page.

The Disaster Management Centre and the Department of Meteorology issued a rather late ‘early warning’ message last night on their website, which points to the issue of the effectiveness of early warning mechanisms in place and how information concerning public safety can be disseminated to the public immediately in order to minimise possible risks. It is also the responsibility of the Ministry of Disaster Management for Safer Communities and Sustainable Development to issue road travel warnings and to ensure that police departments and other institutions have the capacity to deal with emergencies. After the severe flooding in the Western Province that affected over 70,000 people last year, one would have hoped that the Ministry had set about planning a more effective early warning system and emergency response system. With over 750,000 people affected, it is quite clear that the Ministry needs to focus more on the methods of disaster management and public safety.