Thousands homeless as Sri Lanka floods death toll hits 17

Thousands homeless as Sri Lanka floods death toll hits 17

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Colombo:Army relief workers in aluminium dinghies handed out rice and other food to residents in submerged parts of the Sri Lankan capital as the death toll from monsoon floods across the country rose to 17 Monday.

The monsoon hits this South Asian country twice a year, bringing vital rainfall for irrigation and hydroelectric power, but it can be deadly and destructive.

After downpours flooded 10 of the country’s 25 regions, at least 17 people have died since Friday.

“Our kitchen is still flooded and we managed thanks to cooked food distributed by the military,” Kusuma Dahanayake told AFP by telephone from Gampaha, the worst-affected district, just outside Colombo.

The 73-year-old said it was the worst flooding she had experienced at her home since she moved there in 1995.

Officials said floodwaters in the area were receding, but about 161,000 people were still unable to return to their homes.

The flooding in the area was exacerbated by the illegal filling of low-lying lands reserved for stormwater retention, they added.

Residents of Kelania, a suburb of Colombo, trek in waist-deep waters, while some use makeshift rafts and paddles to walk around the streets that now resemble canals.

In Malwana, northeast of Colombo, Hassen Maulavi told AFP that he must negotiate flooded streets from his partially flooded two-story house on Monday to make emergency medical appointments.

On Monday, soldiers rescued 27 people trapped in the area north of Colombo. They had previously rescued hundreds of people from flooded houses over the weekend.

The Disaster Management Center said that the overall situation appeared to have improved on Monday, although there were still mudslide warnings in 10 areas.

In the central Kegalle district, rescuers said they were guided by a pet dog to a home where four members of a family had been buried by a mudslide on Sunday.

All four — aged between 23 and 57 — had died, the officials added.

While Sri Lanka s monsoon is seasonal, the nation — a member of the 48-country Climate Vulnerable Forum — faces more frequent floods as a result of global warming, experts have warned. 

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