La Nina lashes Rs. 50 b socio-economic damage

Thursday, 13 January 2011 00:46 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Floods force back President’s tour of affected areas in Polonnaruwa
  • Round the clock relief operation with over 28000 service personnel on duty
  • 10 districts in the country are landslide prone

By Shezna Shums

A GovernmenT official yesterday estimated the socio-economic cost of the ravaging floods in several parts of the country at Rs. 50 billion though the actual damage is yet to be assessed.

“We estimate the damage to be around Rs. 50 billion but this figure however may vary once an accurate calculation is carried out in all affected districts,” Disaster Management Ministry Additional Secretary Gamini Rajakaruna told journalists yesterday.

This estimated figure covers the areas of livelihoods, urban and rural infrastructure, minor tanks, paddy and other crop cultivations and houses among others.

Currently Batticaloa and Ampara continue to have rains. However. the intensity and frequency of the rains have reduced, nevertheless the flooding in these districts continue to remain the same.

Director General, Meteorology Department, G.B. Samarasinghe said yesterday that the country is experiencing what is called ‘La Nina’.

Heavy rains however will continue for the next three days and only after the third day will favourable weather conditions emerge.

Samarasinghe added that the rainfall received in districts such as Batticaloa and Ampara during these few days is equal to the normal rainfall recorded during the entire month of January.

Samarasinghe warns that the country should be prepared to face similar bad weather conditions in the future.

Heavy rains are expected in the Eastern and North Central Provinces.

Meanwhile President Mahinda Rajapakse visited some flood affected areas in Polonnaruwa yesterday morning but could not visit the Eastern province due to bad weather. The Eastern Province is one of the worst affected areas.

President Rajapaksa had instructed Essential Services Commissioner General to gather all available resources to help the affected people.

The President said the people in the flood hit areas are desperately in need of assistance for food, medicine and shelter.

The Disaster Management Center has already released Rs 49 million to District Secretaries around the Island to help in their relief efforts, and will be releasing more when needed.

The government had allocated Rs 100 million for disaster mitigation. However, the current situation is that the rains are heavy and highly intensified thereby making these efforts useless.  

The relief work is being carried out through District Secretariats with the help of Divisional Secretariats and Grama Niladaraies.

The National Building Material Organisation (NBMO) warns families living in danger zones to evacuate immediately and to provide a daily update of vulnerable areas.

P.M.S.Bandara, Head of Landslide Studies of the National Building Research Organisation addressing the Conference said that 10 districts in the country have become landslide prone districts and most of the landslides are occurring due to the negligence of people building houses and other structures obstructing natural water flowing areas and cutting hill slopes without taking adequate measures to provide proper props for the hill tops.  He said that due to this the soil gets over-soaked during heavy rains and the danger of landslides increases.

Earth slips and landslides occur when people build their homes without proper structural support. However, a cabinet paper has now been passed to the effect that NBMO approval is required for building construction in certain hilly and mountainous areas around the country.

It is interesting that some people do not like to move out from their homes even when a disaster has taken place while some have the knowledge that they may receive government compensation if their houses are damaged.

Public assistance is also sought to fund essential items such as food, drinking water, mats, baby food items and medicines.

Latest statistics indicate a total of 966, 757 people in 257, 993 families are affected.

A total of 20 deaths were reported as of yesterday afternoon and 49 persons were injured while two persons are still missing.

Data from the Disaster Management Center also show that 1609 houses were fully damaged and 11, 338 houses were partially damaged.

Overall there are a total of 502 Internally Displaced Camps (IDP) providing food and shelter to 197, 221 persons from a total of 52, 391 families.

The Sri Lanka Air Force had to air drop food supplies to some communities who were cut off from rescue missions.

The Sri Lanka Government, the Sri Lanka Red Cross and the World Food Programme are sending clean water, food and dry rations to the affected people.

According to the Disaster Management Center the low lying areas in the Districts of Batticaloa, Ampara, Trincomalee, Kurunegala, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa were flooded due to torrential rain last Saturday, and there is an urgent need to assist help.