Sri Lanka floods: Indian Navy teams deployed: Battle to rescue stranded as death toll mounts

Sri Lanka remains in the grips of the worst flooding in 14 years, and the bad weather that has killed at least 194 people is expected to continue, the Red Cross said Monday.

As many as 112 people are still missing, and the death toll is expected to rise, as authorities battle to rescue those still stranded and warn of the possibility of crocodile attacks.

In its latest situation report the Disaster Management Centre on Monday said 471,542 people belonging to 128,586 families were affected in 15 Districts due to the flood situation while 75,236 people belonging to 18,652 families were located at 336 safe locations.

The flooding brought by the rains since last Friday is believed to be the island’s worst flooding in 14 years. The flooding in May 2003 has destroyed 10,000 homes and killed 250 people.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately directed provision of all necessary assistance,” a statement issued by High Commission of India.

“He 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.”

Indian Navy diving and medical teams arrived in INS Shardul yesterday have been deployed to assist Sri Lanka Navy operations at Kalutara, Ratmalana and Galle.

INS ‘Shardul’ has nearly 200 personnel on board, including specialised rescue, diving and medical teams, as well as a large amount of relief material and Gemini inflatable boats.

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 Indian contingent of more than 300 navy personnel was assisting in the relief, with divers searching the brackish waters and medical teams seeing patients in makeshift tents set up at shelters.

INS ‘Kirch’ was carrying 125 personnel. It had diving teams, relief supplies, inflatable gemini boats and a mobile medical teams.

A third Indian naval ship arrived on Tuesday, bringing relief supplies including rice, lentils, sugar, milk and blankets for the displaced.

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.”

Karuanayake said Prime Minister Modi’s gesture demonstrated the new level of Indo-Lanka relations under the current government of the President Maithripala Sirisena.

Local Sri Lanka Red Cross volunteers and staff workers have been on the scene to give first aid, help with search and rescue missions, and distribute food, water and supplies.

Australia has pledged $500,000 for inflatable boats and outboard motors to assist with search and rescue efforts, the country’s embassy in Colombo said Tuesday.

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.

The most severely impacted district is Galle, where 142,149 people (36,314 families) have reportedly been affected. Fatalities have been reported in Gampaha, Galle, Hambantota, Kalutara, Kegalle, Matara and Ratnapura districts, with 46 deaths reported in Ratnapura alone.

The UN received an initial request from the Government on 26 May 2017 related to search and rescue efforts. UN agencies are currently supporting the Government’s relief efforts in coordination and mobilizing resources.

UNICEF will donate water containers, water purification tablets and tarpaulin sheets to the Disaster Management Centre (DMC).

WHO (World Health Organization) will be supporting the Ministry of Health to deploy medical teams to the affected districts. WFP (World Food Programme) and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) are supporting the DMC (Disaster Management Centre) with information management.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA)

will provide additional human resources for coordination with Government and Humanitarian Partners. Search and Rescue efforts are on standby from neighbouring countries and can be deployed if needed.

Sri Lanka, which has been heavily deforested for cash crops, often witnesses landslides during the monsoon season.

The Meteorology Department on Monday warned of more rains followed by strong winds and people residing in low lying areas in the south were advised to evacuate to safer locations as all the major rivers are overflowing.

More rain is expected in the next two days as the depression in the east central Bay of Bengal had intensified in to a Cyclonic storm “MORA” and is now moving away from the island.

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