Tropical storm leaves seven dead

Friday, 1 December 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • 26 injured and 5 missing as adverse weather continues
  • Met dept cautious of another tropical storm 
  • Red alert for two districts and flood warnings
  • Rs. 10,000 allowance for all affected families
  • Police deployed to provide security to evacuated areas

By Chathuri Dissanayake 

The Disaster Management Centre (DMC) yesterday rushed to take control over the unfolding disaster situation as the bad weather conditions prevailing over the country caused havoc killing at least seven people and injured 26. 

Another five people have been listed as missing while over 1,036 people have been evacuated to safe locations due to landslide threats in Ratnapura and Badulla districts. The Government has already taken measures to grant a Rs. 10,000 compensation for all property damages through the National Disaster Insurance scheme which has insured all residences in the country.

President Maithripala Sirisena who is on a state visit to South Korea has issued instructions to disaster Management Minister and the Secretary to the President to take all necessary measures to address the situation. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also discussed the situation with party leaders and issued instructions.

 “We have dispatched all emergency relief items and have given instructions to all local authorities to take immediate action. There is a good system in place and the DMC and the Disaster Management Ministry has been working overnight to address the situation,” Disaster Management Minster Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said addressing relief agency representatives and journalists at the DMC.

As many as 20,000 people have been affected due to heavy rains and gusty winds that continued thought out Wednesday night, while 202 residences have been totally damaged in the unfolding disaster. Another 3,250 houses have sustained partial damages, the DMC said.

Yapa also said four welfare centres have been set up in the Nuwara Eliya District to shelter evacuees from the Ella divisional secretariat. The DMC has also dispatched 1,900 tents to people whose houses were damaged severely. Colombo has been given 500 tents, while Galle and Matara received 200 tents each.  Kalutara has been given 1,000 tents.

Miscommunication on weather predictions and denial of foreign weather forecasts warning of adverse conditions over the country saw the Meteorology Department tread cautiously yesterday, but it did maintain that it issued a red alert by 3pm on Wednesday.

The situation which is similar to the weather conditions experienced in 2011 and 2013 where over 50 fishermen deaths were reported. Department Director General S. Premalal claimed the low number of fatalities was testimony to the measures taken by the Department to issue warnings on the current situation.

“If we had not warned there would have been more deaths,” he insisted.

The heavy rains and ‘gusty winds’ caused deep depression in the Arabian Sea, to the west of Sri Lanka in the Bay of Bengal continue prompting the Meteorology Department to issue warnings urging people to be vigilant. However, the Department said that the depression is moving away from the country. Further a rainfall above 100mm is expected in areas of Northern, North-central, Uva, Southern, Western, Sabaragamuwa and Central provinces affected by the disaster.

Most damage has been caused by falling trees in the strong wind conditions experienced in the Western and Southern parts of the island. The Meteorology Department says the conditions will continue for another 24 hours with heavy rainfall and winds as strong as 100km/h.

The irrigation department yesterday warned of floods as water levels of Nilwala, Gin and Kalani Rivers are rising rapidly. The Nilvala river flood level had reached major flood level which may cause flooding, Director Hydrology P. Hettiarachchi said.

“It will not be as bad as the May floods,” she assured, but urged people to be vigilant.

The Nilwala River has the water levels reaching the brim in the Pitabeddara, Panadugama, and Sapugoda areas.

While the deep depression that developed on Wednesday is slowly moving away from Sri Lanka to the Arabian Sea, another is forming off the Eastern Coast of the Island.

However, the Meteorology Department maintained that it was too early to assess the possible impact of the second cyclonic conditions despite predictions by international weather centres warns of possible tropical cyclone developing over the week.

The tri-forces have been deployed to search for the missing and engage in all rescue and evacuation efforts in coordination with the DMC. All leave of members of the Police force also has been cancelled with immediate effect to ensure maximum support to ongoing relief efforts, Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake said.