Indian divers to join Sri Lanka flood rescue as toll climbs

Cheryl Sanders
June 1, 2017

They come after two months of drought, which had grown severe enough to warrant aid from the World Food Programme.

Sri Lankan rescuers pulled out more bodies under enormous mudslides on Sunday as the death toll climbed to 151 with 111 others missing.

With more rain expected on Monday, rescuers were racing to evacuate villagers from the most vulnerable areas and emergency teams were rushing to distribute aid to almost half a million people driven out of their homes by the island's worst flooding in a decade. In this photo, a man looks at the site of a landslide in Athwelthota village.

Torrential rains over the last four days have sparked widespread flooding and triggered landslides in southwestern parts of the Indian Ocean island.

The country's southwest is often referred to as the "wet belt", IFRC said, because ample rainfall is common in the region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang sent condolence messages to President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe respectively on the loss of the lives and property in floods and landslides caused by heavy rain. Some 471,000 people remain displaced while over 75,000 people are now being housed in over 330 temporary relief accommodation.

The government said floodwaters were beginning to recede on Monday but some low-lying areas remained heavily inundated.

Army boats raced up and down waterlogged village streets as they rushed to evacuate people and bring relief supplies.

Mr Kolundzija said getting survivors sustenance, clean water and shelter was critical.

Worldwide aid has started to trickle in as well.

The United Nations said it had joined the relief efforts and would donate water purification tablets, tents and other supplies for the displaced. India sent a shipload of goods while the United States and Pakistan also promised consignments of relief supplies. The organization said that nearly 53,000 dengue fever cases were recorded across the country since the start of the year - a significant increase from the same period last year.

It raised concerns about stagnant flood waters becoming breeding grounds for dengue-spreading mosquitoes, and noted that young children were more vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the DMC requested the people to be vigilant on rising water levels.

The wettest time of the year in Sri Lanka's south is usually from May to September.

"The humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka right now is alarming".

With the meteorology department predicting a further 36 hours of heavy rains, Sri Lankan authorities have begun to evacuate people from the banks of three overflowing rivers - Nilwala in the south, Gin in the west, and Kelani in Colombo.

Indian High Commission here tweeted images of "Indian diving and medical teams deployed at Kalutara, Ratmalana (and) Galle with (Sri Lankan) navy relief (operations)".

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