Sri Lanka floods force 300 000 to flee

2010-11-11 17:06

Colombo - Sri Lanka sent in troops to rescue residents marooned in the capital Colombo on Thursday after the heaviest rains in 18 years flooded the city, forcing up to 300 000 people from their homes.

At least one man was struck down by lightning and killed while a woman was injured when her house collapsed, disaster management officials said.

The authorities set up 12 temporary shelters in and around the capital to accommodate the victims of the heaviest rains since June 1992.

The national assembly was flooded, forcing parliamentary Speaker Chamal Rajapakse to take a boat to inspect the building, located on an island in a man-made lake, which is usually reached by a causeway.

MPs were later ferried over in military amphibious vehicles for a five-minute session, held in darkness, during which they passed six pieces of legislation under bipartisan agreement.

The red-carpeted main chamber itself was dry, but the assembly's lower floor was under more than a metre of water, like other areas of the capital where thousands of homes were inundated.

Disaster management officials said between 250 000 and 300 000 people had been driven from their homes by the flood waters.

Protect our environment

Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said the flooding was caused by the loss of marshes in Colombo which had previously acted as a sponge to soak up water during downpours.

Most of them have been drained for housing development.

"There is message in this disaster," de Silva told reporters outside the flooded parliament. "We need to take more care of our environment and pay more attention to protecting our eco-systems."

Overnight rains dumped 445mm of rain on the city, the biggest deluge since June 1992, when 497mm fell in a day.

"We are deploying troops to rescue people who have been marooned as well as to clear dozens of cars struck in flooded roads," said Dampath Ratnayake who was co-ordinating relief at the Colombo Operations Command.

"The storm water system is unable to cope with the volume of water and we are also sending troops to help municipal workers clear some of the blocked drains," he said.

Navy boats and air force helicopters were deployed to help stranded residents and police said thousands of houses were under water. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Telecomms cut

Telephones and internet connections were also cut because of lightning damage to telecommunication towers, while the authorities shut most public schools and cancelled a national examination.

Many banks shut down their automatic teller machines as their computer networks were affected by the lightning. Most land line telephone connections were out, and fallen trees brought down power lines.

A three-day practice match between the West Indies cricket team and a select XI was called off as the venue for the game in Colombo's fashionable Cinnamon Gardens area was knee-deep in water, officials said.

On the roads police deployed extra officers as traffic lights failed and some of the flooded thoroughfares were blocked with stalled vehicles.

"Heavy rains are due to inter-monsoonal activity and we can expect more rain," national weather chief G D Samarasinghe said.

Sri Lanka depends on monsoon rains for irrigation and power generation but the seasonal downpours frequently cause loss of life and damage to property in low-lying areas.

The island's two main monsoon seasons run from May to September and December to February, with rains in between being the result of inter-monsoon activity.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    sri lanka  |  asia floods publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

Boks want to continue upward curve
Ton-up Giteau defies his own expectations
The game of Heyneke’s life
Kriel braced for titanic Welsh clash
Traffic Alerts

You may find it hard to focus on the mundane routines as the greener pastures seem so tempting. It is a good time to expand more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.