Drowned out!

Friday, 12 November 2010 02:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Wonder of Asia...

The view of the submerged Parliament complex was released by the Sri Lanka Air Force yesterday. Most parts of Colombo and its suburbs as well as the Western Province were under flashfloods following the worst rainfall in 18 years

The rain gods wreaked havoc on trade yesterday, with key commercial areas being inundated with floods and unable to carry out their usual business.

As the highest rainfall in 18 years beat down, visitors were greeted with empty streets in Pettah as the many traders shut up shop in an attempt to avoid the deluge that has been descending on Colombo as well as the greater parts of the Western Province and coastal areas since Wednesday night.

The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) began trading one and a half hours later than its standard 9:30 a.m., but closed at the normal time. Stocks saw a rebound from a one month low, yet was balanced out by low liquidity and credit hit turnover to provide mixed fortunes.

Staff in pivotal commercial hubs as well as public servants preferred to take the day off and avoid the massive traffic jams that blocked every main artery to and within the capital. The latter were told to apply for leave under the ‘natural disaster’ category by the Chief Minister of the Western Province Prasanna Ranathunga.

The kick-off press conference for the much-billed Sri Lanka Design Festival 2010 which was scheduled to be held last evening at the Mt. Lavinia Hotel was cancelled, but the event had a subdued opening.

The Disaster Management Centre reported that around 42,646 families had been affected by flash floods in the Western Province. Their statistics detailed 200,000 people who had been provided food and fresh water before being sent to safe places.

Of the affected families 9,000 were from the Colombo District, 10,000 from Kolonnawa, 5,000 from Ratmalana, 4,350 from Thimbirigasyaya, 3,000 from Moratuwa and 2,500 families from the Moratuwa District.

Disaster Management Minister A.H.M. Fowzie had released Rs. 20 million to provide relief within the Western Province. Accordingly, Rs. 1 million has been allocated to the Colombo District, with the remainder being divided between the Gampaha and Kalutara areas.

Colombo recorded its second highest rainfall of 440.2 mm after a record of 493 mm 18 years ago. Ratmalana and Katunayake recorded a rainfall of 382.8mm and 160.6mm respectively. The Met Department issued notice that more showers could be expected in most parts of the island today as well with possible expansion to the east.

The Ceylon Electricity Board announced that power cuts were possible after four important sub stations were flooded.

Power and Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka warned: “There is a strong possibility that power shortages will occur in areas around the Diyawanna Oya as the CEB attends to urgent repairs. Sri Lanka does not have the technology to waterproof power stations so as the news filtered, power was cut to the areas of Kelanitissa power grid, Thurstan and Lucky Plaza.”

Colombo 7, 12, 13, 14 and 15 had power disconnected on Wednesday night.

The Disaster Management Centre, Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) and Construction and Housing Ministry headed by Wimal Weerawansa issued hotline numbers to the media to create awareness among people who may need assistance to reach safety.

MCNS assisted the effort by relaying information to the teams of Army and Navy personnel involved in rescue operations and providing relief in the affected areas. The Army used dingy boats while the Navy also kept a helicopter to assess the damage for report compilation. The report is to be handed to relevant officials once completed.

School children were the only ones to receive a reprieve, with the postponement of the year-end exams that were scheduled for yesterday. The Education Minister Bandula Gunewardene gave permission for principals to close their schools if the environment was not conducive.

Parliament powerless

BRAVING flood waters with a little help, Parliament managed to hold sessions yesterday, but was forced to do so in darkness as the electricity supply was cut off.

Flood waters had breached the first floor of the buildings, covered the lawns, filled the visitors’ entrances and had even seeped into the members’ library. Staff had to rush to remove important documents and computers to the top floors of the complex and shut down the power supply to avoid accidents. All but the essential staff was allowed to return home after the initial damage control was completed.

The Speaker and Opposition Leader were among the MPs who had to be conveyed in armoured vehicles when the main entrance became impassable.

The road from the Speakers official residence was under water at one point.

Leader of the House Minister Nimal Siripalsa de Silva, Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Jagath Pushpakumara, Dayasiri Jayasekera, A. H. M. Azwer and Vasudeva Nanayakkara were among those ferried in armoured vehicles, with even journalists joining the ride.

However, supplementary estimates amounting to Rs. 15 billion and four other financial regulations including those under the Goods and Services Act and Special Commodity Act were approved.

Prime Minister D.M Jayaratne put the situation in a positive light when he quipped “different political parties should not wait for a natural disaster to work together but should do so always”.