IOM aid for Sri Lanka flood victims

At least 23 people have died in Sri Lanka after torrential rain brought flooding and mudslides to the island nation in recent days, causing havoc for over 100,000 people.

In coordination with the local authorities and the National Disaster Relief Services Center (NDRSC) and with the financial support from AmeriCares, IOM assisted 250 flood-affected families in Kalutara District. The families received hygiene items, tarpaulin, jerry cans and sleeping mats.

Fourteen people have died in Kalutara, south of Colombo, whilst landslides have destroyed 44 homes. Most of the displaced population returned to their homes after three days, although some families continued to stay with relatives and friends until the floods subside completely.

Mrs. Aruni Perera, a mother of seven lost her mud house to the floods. She is looking ahead and thinking of the future, but said that the assistance “is a great relief to us until we can go back to our homes and find new alternatives.”

The flooding is caused by the summer monsoon. Water levels rose by more than six metres in some areas and are still affecting accessibility to some internal roads. The floods have also affected many essential services such as schools, hospitals and transportation. Red Cross volunteers have been deployed to alert families living in low lying areas of these river basins. They are also able to assist in evacuations if necessary.

Another concern is that the rains have destroyed over 400 acres of rice and other field crops. This could bring disastrous economic consequences to the locality, as one third of the labour force relies on agriculture for its livelihood.

Flooding has been common in Sri Lanka in recent years, with heavy floods occurring in 2006 and 2008.  Death tolls have been quite low, apart from in 2003 when 180 people perished.

“This underscores the need for investment in disaster risk reduction and community disaster management,” said Giuseppe Crocetti, IOM's Chief of Mission in Sri Lanka. “Communities are far more resilient when they are better prepared to cope with changes in climate and weather patterns.”