- Calls on communities in the South to extend assistance as did Northern community
- Govt. allocates Rs. 50 million for immediate relief efforts, more funds to follow
- NITF releases Rs. 80 million to pay advance for damaged houses
- Estimates damage to run into several billions
- Says coordinated effort will be launched for initial recovery work
- Local Govt. officials meeting today to draw up a plan to expedite work
- Prime Minister to visit North tomorrow
By Chathuri Dissanayake
The Government yesterday called on all civil society organisations and volunteers to assist with aid for the flood-affected community in the North, setting up collection points in all Divisional Secretariats.
Recalling the assistance sent by Northern communities when Southern parts of the country faced disastrous floods in the past, Home Affairs Minister Wajira Abeywardana appealed that the same solidarity should be extended to the flood victims of the North.
“We remember when there were floods in the South, there were lorry loads which came from Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Ampara and Vavuniya. The communities of the South should show the same solidarity the Northern communities extended to them in their time of need. We call on all the civil society workers, volunteers and media organisations who have done this before to extend assistance,” the Minister said, speaking at a press conference held at the Prime Minister’s office.
Abeywardana said instructions have been issued to all Divisional Secretariats to set up collection points for relief items to be sent to the North, once the water levels recede.
Five districts in the North have been affected by flash floods, caused by excessive rainfall in the area since December 21, with Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Jaffna being worst affected. Over 86,531 people of 27,625 families have been affected from by flash floods, with over 100 houses fully damaged, and over 1200 more houses sustaining partial damage. The number is likely to increase as assessments are completed after the flood water recedes, Abeywardana said.
“We expect the damage to run into several billions, taking into account the damage sustained by all Government buildings and infrastructure as well,” he said. “There are no big houses or large structures in these areas; they were just rebuilding their lives after the war, and their houses are small structures, so even a flood of 5 to 8 meters high can do huge damage, unlike in the South.”
The National Insurance Trust Fund (NITF) has already released close to Rs. 80 million to the Ministry of Disaster Management, to provide emergency relief to the displaced persons in the Northern Province, and to pay advances in respect of damaged houses. These funds have been provided under the National Natural Disaster Insurance Scheme (NNDIS) operated by NITF, Chairman Manjula de Silva told Daily FT.
Government will launch a special program to help coordinate the recovery efforts in the Northern flood-affected communities, utilising resources available in the Local Government authorities in the South to expedite the clearance work, in a bid to help the affected communities return to normalcy as fast as possible.
“We will be sending the equipment used in flood recovery efforts, available in the Local Government bodies in the South, to be used in the North, so that the recovery work is expedited. The first priority will be to purify all the drinking water wells, before the communities go back from relief centres,” Abeywardana told Daily FT.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has summoned a meeting of all Local Government body officials to Colombo today, to draw up a strategy to fast-track recovery efforts, he said. The Prime Minister is set to visit the flood-affected areas tomorrow, and meet with Local Government officials to finalise plans and strategy after today’s meeting, the Minister said.
The Disaster Management Ministry has already issued Rs. 50 million to provide food and shelter for those affected, Abeywardana said, adding that each family will be given Rs. 10,000 initially as recovery assistance. The assistance will be followed by funds to rebuild houses damaged by the disaster, after full assessments are completed by Government field officers.
“We are looking at the possibility of deploying all field officers, including Grama Niladharis, Development officers and assessors to expedite the process,” he said, adding that the numbers will increase when the assessment is completed.
The community has also sustained serious economic losses, Abeywardana said, noting that one of the worst affected areas, Kilinochchi, is the largest paddy farming district in the country.
“The main economic activity in all the districts affected is agriculture. We will compensate for losses after the initial recovery is completed. These communities take loans and pawn their jewellery to do their farming, we are aware of their hardships and we will compensate,” he assured.
The Northern districts were recovering from a three-year drought, which affected their economic activities and led to serious debt issues in the community. Earlier this year, the Government announced a moratorium, in a bid to help the affected communities recover.