Another wave of severe flooding has wreaked havoc in the Eastern, North and North Central Provinces of Sri Lanka where heavy monsoon rains have caused 11 deaths and affected more than 1.2 million people.
By February 6th almost 250,000 people had been displaced from their homes, most from the worst hit districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Polonnaruwa and Ampara. Families are being housed in more than 600 temporary evacuation centres established by the government in 11 districts across the island.
Since December, heavy and persistent rains have deluged roads, agricultural lands and towns. 18 of Sri Lanka's 25 districts have been affected in what some are saying are the worst floods that the country has experienced in the past one hundred years. Several major tanks (reservoirs) have overflowed causing extensive flooding of downstream villages with over 8'000 homes reportedly damaged or destroyed.
Last week more than 2'000 people were displaced in Dutuwewa, after a dam in the Kiwulkadawela tank in Polonnaruwa burst, unleashing 55'000 cubic acres of water to the nearby area. Coconut trees in the area were reportedly uprooted by the force of the water gushing from the broken dam.
Sugath Thaksala, a famer in Matale, Central Sri Lanka had a lucky escape from the floods. As the rains intensified he warned his family to get inside their house but cracks began to appear in the walls. He managed to escape with his wife, two sons and a daughter but could only watch as the rain and strong winds caused their home of 20 years to collapse.
"It was really tragic, we are not rich people. All that we earned we put towards building our house. Our kids need a roof on top of their heads. I am 47 years old and I can't imagine starting over again."
Currently Sugath and his family are taking refuge at the nearby temple where the Sri Lankan Red Cross has set up a relief camp.
More to be done
"We are closely monitoring the unfolding situation here in Sri Lanka and have been supporting the Sri Lanka Red Cross to strengthen their emergency response efforts", says Bob McKerrow, head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Sri Lanka. "This is the third successive wave of flooding since December. We've have had severe rains for at least 48 hours which will have hit many of the same families once again. We urgently need more funds to purchase relief materials locally."
Meanwhile over 3'000 Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers from branches in Ampara, Batticaloa, Polonnaruwa, Matale and Trincomalee have been involved in relief efforts, distributing food and non-food relief items such as sarongs, sarees, mosquito nets, bed sheets, sleeping mats, kaftans, tarpaulins and safe drinking water to affected people.
"It's crucial that we provide these relief items to these people so that they do not become vulnerable to other diseases that could arise after a flood situation like this", says Sri Lanka Red Cross director general, Tissa Abeywickrama.
The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal to seek 4.6 million Swiss francs (4.8 million USD, 3.5 million Euros) to support the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society to assist 75,000 people over the next six months with emergency relief and support for their longer term recovery.