ucanews.com reporter, ColomboUpdated: May 25, 2016 10:44 AM GMT
A family wades through flood waters in Biyagama on the outskirts of Colombo. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced into temporary shelters after major floods hit Sri Lanka, killing more than 100 people. (ucanews.com photo)
Catholic parishes are leading the way in helping to get humanitarian aid to flood victims following the heaviest rains to hit Sri Lanka in 25 years.
The death toll from floods and landslides caused by torrential rains brought by Cyclone Roanu rose to more than 100 by May 25, while 109 people were missing, officials from the government's Disaster Management Center said.
The search for those missing is continuing, the center said.
More than 185,000 displaced people sought shelter in churches, temples, schools and other temporary shelters.
Catholic parishes nationwide joined efforts to help flood victims.
Father Lawrance Ramanayaka, a parish priest in Kalamulla, said his parishioners and those in other parishes had donated and collected basic necessities for people in Hanwella and Waliwita parishes located east of Colombo who were among the hardest hit by the flooding.
"They collected enough rice, sugar, bottled water, and sanitary items to fill five lorries," Father Ramanayaka told ucanews.com.
The aid has already been delivered to the parish priests in Hanwella and Waliwita, he said.
People use a boat to travel along a floooded street in Biyagama on outskirts of Colombo following devastating floods that killed more than 100 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. (ucanews.com photo)
Many of Sri Lanka's Buddhist majority canceled Vesak celebrations marking the birth, enlightenment and death of the Lord Buddha on May 21 to join efforts in helping flood victims.
Father Jayantha Nimal Vidanaarchchi, parish priest, of St. Anthony's church in Weliveriya, said many local people donated money, clothing, food and other essentials to victims.
"As well as these relief items the parish also distributed 1,600 lunch packs for victims," he said.
"People have been very helpful and sacrificed their time and money and put in a lot of hard work to assist flood victims," he said.
Sri Lanka's Catholic bishops' conference expressed sorrow at the loss of life and appealed for compassion for all those still affected by the floods.
"There are thousands of our brothers and sisters in camps and temporary shelters including churches and church-run institutions," the bishops said in a May 24 statement.
"We urge our brothers to be sensitive to the situation and help those affected in whatever way possible," they said.
Neighboring countries such as India and Pakistan have sent relief supplies while the United Nations said it would continue to lend support to ensure disaster relief is distributed.
Sri Lanka's Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said the government's priority is to provide immediate help to flood survivors and later take steps to prevent similar calamities from happening again.