India rushes aid to Sri Lanka as floods claim 119 lives
India today rushed relief materials and deployed rescue personnel in Sri Lanka as the country faced its worst floods since 2003 that claimed the lives of nearly 120 people and displaced half a million.
The Disaster Management Centre issued an urgent evacuation warning for residents living along the Kelani River and within the Divisional Secretariats of Kollonnawa, Kaduwela, Wellampitiya, Kelaniya, Biyagama, Sedawatte, Dompe, Hanwella, Padukka and Avissawella.
Nearly half a million people have been displaced due to the flood and earth slips, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said, adding 119 people have died so far while over 150 are missing.
"A total of 493,455 people are now housed in 185 relief camps and health care facilities are being provided to them," Senatatne said.
The incessant south western monsoon has caused havoc since Thursday night with people in 14 of the island's 25 districts being affected.
The south western region of Ratnapura was worst affected. Over 350,000 people have no electricity.
The water levels in most main rivers have swelled, threatening more areas of submerge, Irrigation Department officials said.
Sri Lanka's tri-forces personnel including more than 1,000 Army troops were engaged in the rescue and relief operations.
A Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) airman died after falling from a helicopter during a flood rescue operation in Neluwa area in Galle.
The Meteorology Department said that rain and windy conditions are expected to continue.
"Showers or thundershowers will occur at times in the Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Central and North-western provinces," it said.
Sri Lanka's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in coordination with the Ministry of Disaster Management, appealed to the UN, International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) and neighbouring countries to provide assistance to affected people, especially in the areas of search and rescue operations.
India, the first country to respond, dispatched three Navy ships with emergency supplies to help Sri Lanka in the rescue and relief operations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed provision of all necessary assistance.
The Indian rescue personnel are now being deployed to the disaster affected zone in coordination with Sri Lanka Navy and other Sri Lankan authorities.
Modi also expressed condolences at the loss of lives and property and said that India stands with her Sri Lankan brothers and sisters in their hour of need.
The fist Indian navy ship with rescue and relief materials arrived this morning at the Port of Colombo.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake, who was present to receive the ship, said: "We are grateful to India for sending relief at such a short notice so quickly."
He said India's move to send relief materials demonstrated the Indo-Lanka relations which are at an excellent level.
INS Kirch diverted to Colombo to render immediate assistance in flood relief operations, arrived in Colombo Port today.
Indian High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu handed over the relief items brought by INS Kirch to Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake.
Two more Indian Navy ships -- INS Shardul and INS Jalashwa -- have also left for Sri Lanka with relief materials including food medicines and water.
Medical and diving teams along with boats and helicopters are also being sent on board INS Jalashwa to assist Sri Lanka in rescuing people from flood-hit area, Indian Navy spokesperson Captain D K Sharma said.
The US has said it will provide relief goods worth 150 million Sri Lankan rupees.
The flooding is the worst since May 2003 when 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes destroyed after a similarly powerful Southwest monsoon, officials said.
Sri Lanka's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had activated the Emergency Response Unit to coordinate rescue and relief measures related to the flood situation.
Sri Lanka, which has been heavily deforested for cash crops, often witnesses landslides during the monsoon season.
Last year, more than 100 people were killed in a massive landslide in the country.