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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka floods, mudslides kill at least 164

Caritas distributes 2,000 food packets but access to disaster areas still difficult following worst monsoon rains since 2003

Sri Lanka floods, mudslides kill at least 164

Flood victims in a temporary centre in Colombo share food with children after  flooding and landslides which killed at least 164. (ucanews.com photo)  

Caritas is struggling to reach relief aid to those affected by monsoon-triggered flooding and mudslides in Sri Lanka's southern and western regions that have killed at least 164 and left scores missing.

Monsoonal rains have lashed the country since May 26, flooding more than 15 districts including Galle, Ratnapura, Kalutara, Gampaha and Colombo.

Southern Kalutara district was one of the worst affected areas with at least 50 people killed. Victims said water levels rose so high they completely covered homes, schools and places of worship. 

Father Indika Anthony, Caritas director of Galle Diocese, said access to some areas is still very difficult.

"Thousands of people have been affected, including Christians. The local Caritas distributed 2,000 food packets with the help of Buddhist monks, priests and volunteers on the first day," Father Anthony said.

"There is no electricity due to flooding in affected areas and there is a shortage of drinking water, mats and basic needs," he said.

Over 100,000 displaced people are already being housed in 304 temporary camps in flood-affected districts.

Residents in many more areas have been instructed to evacuate immediately as further rains threaten to exacerbate the flooding. 

"Caritas Chilaw, Badulla, Kurunegala and some parishes have organized to collect mats, pillows, candles, bottles of water, and dry rations to distribute among the worst-affected flood victims," said Father Anthony.

Some parish priests are preparing food for victims, including Deniyaya parish which has catered for up to 1,250 people.

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Buddhist temples, churches, civil society organizations, village groups and media organizations have put up temporary huts on main roads to distribute bottles of water, mats, pillows and dry rations to flood victims.

Jina Athukorala, a homeless flood victim from Avissawella said he left all his possessions, except his clothes, and ran to a center with his family and relatives.

"All houses and roads in our village are completely flooded with water and we got into a boat to save our lives," said Athukorala.

"Many houses were destroyed and don’t have anything now. How can we rebuild our homes?" Athukorala asked.

Some organizations and parish priests have called on Catholics at Sunday Mass to provide support and full cooperation to bring aid to affected families.

Father Anton Ranjith told ucanews.com that parishioners and Buddhist residents of the affected Hanwella and Yakkowita areas have been offered refuge in two local parishes in Gurubewila Church and Our Lady of Sorrows Church.

He noted that about 100 families who had sought refuge there were affected by rising water levels of the Kelani River.

Father Ranjith Terry, parish priest of St. Mary’s Church, told his congregation there was no need to bring offertory gifts during Mass.

"The Young Christian Movement will put up a hut to collect relief items," the priest informed parishioners at the Sunday Mass May 28.

A group of drivers of three-wheeled cars in Colombo has been receiving community donations. One of the drivers, Nihal Dias, said the generous contributions of dry rations and bottles of water arrived from early morning to late evening.

"We give a receipt to every man and thank them for their generosity," said Dias.

The United Nations promised to donate tents, water purification tablets, other supplies. India has donated a shipload of emergency relief goods.

Last May, a massive landslide killed more than 100 in the central part of the country.

In May 17-18, 2003 days of heavy rain caused flooding and landslides that killed at least 260 people and left some 150,000 seeking shelter.

The four southern districts of Galle, Kalutara, Matara and Ratnapura, served by Galle and Ratnapura dioceses, were affected the worst. Galle is 110 kilometers south and Ratnapura 60 kilometers southeast of Colombo.



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