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Sri Lanka floods kill 14, displace 175,000

Qadijah Irshad / 20 December 2012

COLOMBO — Three days of torrential rains that caused floods and landslides have left more than 175,000 people homeless in Sri Lanka.

The Disaster Management Centre on Tuesday announced that 14 people, including children, have been killed and 14 people remained missing during the past three days.

“Around 141 houses have been destroyed and 805 houses partially damaged due to floods and landslides,” said Lal Kumara, Assistant Director of the Disaster Management Centre,  Pradeep Kodippili.

The affected and homeless are being temporarily sheltered in schools, temples and other public places.

According to the Disaster Management Centre, so far 6,312 people belonging to 1,793 families have been evacuated to 29 shelters in the affected districts. Another 21,120 people have been affected by the floods and landslides casued by heavy rains.

Eight of the 14 people, who died in landslides and floods, were from the Matale district in the central province. Kodippili said that the number is likely to rise. The central province tourist hubs, Nuwara Eliya as well as Matale, Batticaloa, Kurunegala and Polonnaruwa, were the worst hit areas, according to the DMC.

Meanwhile, the National Building Research Organisation warned that some areas in the Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla and Matale Districts were prone to landslides and rock falls, if the rains continued.

Local tourists too were victims of the freak weather, with at least 67 of them visiting the Knuckles forest reserve in the Central Province of Sri Lanka were marooned in the area due to floods and roadblocks caused by landslides. Train services were suspended in several parts of the country due to flooding, and a large number of small and big reservoirs are spilling, according to the Irrigation Department said.

Amidst protests by the main opposition United National Party that the Sri Lankan military personnel should not be used for civil services, the armed forces are being used in rescue and search missions for flood victims.

Relief to flood and landslide victims are also being coordinated among the Disaster Management Centre, the police and the military.    
 Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that the assistance of the three armed forces is being obtained for the relief operations and all necessary measures have been taken to provide cooked food to flood victims.

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