Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sri Lanka floods: United Nations seeks emergency aid as death toll rises

As many as 390,000 people have been driven from their homes, according to the country's disaster management centre  

Gethin Chamberlain, Saturday 15 January 2011

The United Nations said today it would launch an appeal for emergency flood aid in Sri Lanka as rescue efforts were mounted to reach those marooned. As many as 390,000 people have been driven from their homes and at least 3,744 houses have been destroyed, according to the country's disaster management centre.

The death toll continued to rise as flooding swamped areas in the east of the country, leaving hundreds of people homeless. At least 37 people had been confirmed dead by this afternoon, and the cost of the floods has been estimated at £315m.

Medical units have been sent to the area to help those who have sought shelter in crowded relief camps. The government sent military helicopters to distribute aid and used transport aircraft to move aid from the capital, Colombo. However, only six tonnes of aid was moved yesterday, according to the country's Daily Mirror newspaper.

Four camps have been set up to help flood victims and reports said troops had been deployed to distribute food and medical supplies. India sent a plane loaded with food supplies as well as blankets and water purification tablets. The US said it was sending aid and has supplied boats to rescue the stranded and distribute bottled water, cooking materials and tarpaulins.

The floods followed heavy rainfall in the east of the country.

UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Neil Buhne said an appeal would follow shortly. "I urge donors to generously support priority needs such as mosquito nets, clean water and food," he said.

Ten more people were reported dead today and at least 12 more are missing and 49 injured. The worst hit district was Batticaloa, where 18 deaths were reported.

Sellaih Rasiah, a community leader in Karaithivu, said villagers affected by the devastating 2004 tsunami have lost most of their belongings and would again have to start anew. Disaster management minister Mahinda Amaraweera warned of the danger of water-borne diseases. Up to one fifth of the country's rice farms have been hit.

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