Storm kills 31 fishermen in Sri Lanka
Authorities accused of negligence after late warning
A rescue worker helps a storm victim off the coast of southern Sri Lanka
Strong winds that lashed southern parts of Sri Lanka for two days have killed 31 fishermen and left another 31 missing after their boats were swept out to sea.
The storm uprooted trees and damaged 2,286 houses, while railway lines and roads were also affected.
Fishermen have accused the Meteorological Department of failing to alert them to the heavy rains and gale force winds that struck on Friday.
In addition to the dead and missing, 29 have been injured, the Disaster Management Centre said today.
Herman Kumara, head of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement, said that the country’s fishing community was shocked by the storm damage and government negligence.
“There hadn’t been a specific warning and many lives could have been saved if a timely warning had been given,” he said.
The Sri Lankan air force and navy continue to carry out search and rescue operations.
Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, Sarath Kumara Gunaratne, said that 36 boats in total had gone missing.
“The Department of Fisheries has decided to give Rs. 100,000 (US$800) financial aid to each family of the deceased fishermen,” he said.
“Many fishermen do not wear their life saving jackets therefore we hope to bring in laws to save them,” he said.
Meteorological Department Director General S.H.Kariyawasam said that the stormy conditions were worse than expected.
Even by Saturday morning, however, the department had failed to issue a severe weather warning.
Nalaka Fernando, a fisherman who went to sea on Saturday, said that most of the fishermen were already out on their boats by the time the warning came.
“This is not the first case of the department of failing to alert,” he said. “Fishermen have become victims every time.”
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