The death toll rose further yesterday after recovery crews began reaching remote corners cut off during the last several days when heavy rains followed by landslides and deadly floods overwhelmed many areas of the country’s southwest in the worst disaster in more than a decade.
At least 193 people had died in seven districts while 94 people were still missing, Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne told the media in Colombo.
The overall death toll was not clear as the rescue/recovery operations were still continuing in all affected areas, however the missing 94 were feared dead. Authorities expect the number of deaths to rise accordingly. Most deaths occurred in Ratnapura, Matara and Kalutara, according to Disaster Management Centre (DMC).
Flood waters receded in some places five days after heavy rains toppled concrete walls, flattened hills and tore roofs off homes, forcing thousands of people to evacuate.
Minister Senaratne placed the number of affected people at 575,816 from149,678 families; 1,326 houses had been destroyed while another 6,979 damaged, he added.
Evacuated people have been accommodated at 383 safe places and the government has ensured that all are given enough food. Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake said there was no need for cooked meals for victims.
Dr. Senaratne said the roads had been cleared in most affected areas, but the southern expressway’s entrance at Godagama, Matara, still remained closed. The commuters could use the expressway from Kadawatha to Kokmaduwa, he noted.
The power supply in most areas had been restored but 120, 000 places were yet without power, Minister Senaratne said.
Urban Development, Water Supply and Drainage Minister Rauff Hakeem said 80 percent of water supply had been restored in affected areas and the rest would be completed soon.
He assured that pipe-borne water was safe to drink as the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) was continuously monitoring the water quality.
Highlighting the government compensation scheme for flood victims, Minister Senaratne said Rs. 100,000 would be given to the loss of a life and maximum up to Rs. 2.5 million would be given to a house damaged by the disaster.
The victims were covered by the national disaster insurance scheme, he said.
When a journalist asked whether there were any plans to mitigate future disasters Dr. Senaratne said disasters occurred not only in Sri Lanka but also in the developed countries like the US.
When asked about the criticisms over Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe leaving the country while the country was faced with disasters and the absence of Disaster Management Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Minister Senaratne said PM Wickremesinghe had left for the for medical treatment and Minister Yapa was on his way back home after attending a conference on disaster management abroad.
He said two billion rupees had been allocated for the rehabilitation of small scale businesses which were affected by the disaster.
Meanwhile, the Meteorology Department yesterday predicted a let-up in bad weather from today as the cyclonic storms had crossed the Bangladesh yesterday.
However, the Met Department predicted very strong winds about 60-70 kmph over the country (These windy conditions are especially expected over the western slope of the central hills and the surrounding sea areas.)
The Met Department has said that the showers or thundershowers will occur at times in the Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, North-western and Central provinces. Showers or thundershowers may occur at several places in the Uva and Eastern provinces particularly in the afternoon.
The National Building Research Organization (NBRO) has extended landslide warnings in Ratnapura, Kegalle, Galle, Kalutara, Matara, Hambantota and Nuwara Eliya.