Caritas volunteers assist flood victims

Over 900,000 people hit by devastating rains in Sri Lanka

Caritas volunteers assist flood victims
People being rescued in small boats reporter, Batticaloa, Sri Lanka

January 13, 2011

Caritas Sri Lanka is mobilizing volunteers after flooding rains in central and eastern regions of the nation left at least 18 people dead and 127,000 displaced.

Five of the deaths occurred when a boulder dislodged by the rains demolished six houses. Another 44 people were injured. Over 900,000 have been affected while displaced people are now lodged in 502 camps.

The rains also caused extensive damage to crops in several areas. According to agricultural authorities, over 80,000 hectares of paddy land were destroyed.

Sri Lanka Air Force helicopters rescued 46 persons including a pregnant woman, while the army rescued more than 450 civilians, the defense ministry noted in a statement. The army deployed over 1,000 troops while the navy dispatched boats to stricken areas.

Caritas officials and priests organized parish volunteers to take care of the sick and elderly and distribute relief supplies to affected people.

Caritas officials distributing aid

“Unbearable. Words are inadequate to describe the agony and misery of the people,” said Father Sritharan Sylvester, Caritas head in Batticaloa diocese.

Spill gates of reservoirs and tanks in many parts of the country have been opened leading to further concerns among aid workers.

“Water levels will rise if more sluice gates are opened,” warned Caritas official Santhia Michael.

Father Mashal M. Rajanayagam, vicar-general of Badulla diocese in the tea rubber plantation sector, said that aid has still not reached many areas.

“Old people are dying here due to cold,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, the government appealed to the general public to donate drinking water, mats, bed sheets, clothing and milk powder for children.

The World Food Program said in a statement that it will provide food assistance worth 55 million rupees ($US 500,000) to 400,000 flood affected people in the east.

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