Caritas and other Christian groups are distributing relief aid to Sri Lankan disaster victims amid floods, landslides and lightning strikes attributed to the annual southwest monsoon. According to the Disaster Management Centre, nearly 128,000 people have been affected in 19 districts, with 16 deaths and one person reported missing. Chilaw Diocese is one of the worst affected with heavy rains and strong winds causing havoc. Father Anton Wyman Croos, director of Caritas
Chilaw-Janasaviya, visited flood victims in many hard-hit areas. Some places could not reached because of flooding, but food parcels were distributed to about 250 people, Father Croos said. Dry rations will be collected at parish level on Sunday in Chilaw Diocese
. More than 37,000 displaced people have taken refuge in 163 evacuation centers, including at some churches. "Many have lost their livelihoods," Father Croos said. Hundreds of animals have been taken away by the flooding and there is an ongoing threat to both dairy farmers and cultivating farmers. Spill gates of Thabbowa reservoir in Father Croos' diocese were opened as the water level continued to rise. Police and military search and rescue operations were continuing. In 2017, more than 200 people were killed and 78 people went missing when the monsoon caused severe floods and landslides across the country. A church affected by the flood in Chilaw Diocese. (Photo supplied)
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However, officials hope the death toll will be much lower this time as a result of early government warnings and rescue teams equipped with boats being on standby. Surani Nayomi, who is in a Ratnapura evacuation center with her two children, said women, children and the elderly were particularly at risk from disease. Ratnapura
gets frequent flooding, landslides and soil erosion due to gem mining. "Still rain continues, so water levels are quite high," she said. "There are families who have been trapped and water, food and sanitation are immediate needs for the victims." The government has requested that people in low-lying areas move to safer locations. Officials have closed schools in the rain-affected areas.