President empowers all agencies for bad weather impact

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday beefed up disaster readiness islandwide with a directive to all relevant government agencies and officers to go on to a high alert even as adverse weather conditions signalled a steadily growing impact on population and infrastructure.

The Presidential directive aimed at both empowering as well coordinating the various disaster response agencies in their handling of the stormy weather countrywide so that all contingencies are addressed even as they arise. These include search and rescue operations, medical responses, health monitoring, relief supplies and other logistics, especially in the many remote rural areas that are most affected by the incessant heavy rain and earthslip risks.

The President yesterday chaired a meeting of the relevant agency heads and stressed the responsibility by the Government for the welfare, safety and security of all affected citizens. He instructed the officials to ensure that responding action should be taken promptly.The co-ordination of the relief efforts is supervised by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

With rising water levels in some rivers and irrigation reservoirs, and the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) continuing to predict more rains, emergency response systems are already working round-the-clock across the island.Yesterday, a search-and-rescue unit of the Army’s 3rd Sinha Regiment recovered the body of 15-year-old Kalana Pathum who lost his life when the family home was buried in a sudden landslide in Malapattawa in Walapane.

The total death toll has risen to four in the last two days alone.The Ministry of Defence and the civilian Disaster Management Centre are working in close collaboration to contain the situation should the weather conditions worsen.The Department of Meteorology has issued an adverse weather warning sounding the alarm for the Northern, Eastern, Uva and Central provinces. “Prevailing showery conditions are expected today evening and will continue to worsen tomorrow and the day after,” the duty meteorologist told Daily News. “Heavy rainfall is predicted for the central hills with potential for landslides in these areas. Water inundation in low lying areas and uprooting of large avenue trees is likely,” the Met. Department warns.

The department has advised motorists travelling to the hillcountry to remain vigilant for ground subsidence while those living in landslide prone areas have been advised to take precautionary measures. Residents in all areas are requested to contact the local Disaster Management authorities in any emergency.Meanwhile, Engineer R.M.M.R Alawathugoda, director of Hydrology at the Irrigation Department said that the department has observed a continuous rise in water levels of the Millakanda station of the Kalu Ganga. The threat of landslides has also forced the evacuation of 46 families in the Galullawatta Dumo section of Madulsima Estate in Lunugala (Uva) yesterday.

Lunugala Divisional Secretary Nimal Dissanayake said that those who have been evacuated will be housed at Galula Tamil College where they are being looked after. He said that there were 98 women among the displaced, including two pregnant.

Meanwhile, 3,765 individuals have been evacuated and housed in shelters in the Batticialoa district. The shelters include temporary shelters in Manmunai North, Kiran, Kattankudy, Arayampathy, Vellaveli and Vakarai. The evacuated people are in 4 camps. Four homes have been washed away by floods in Kiran and in Arayampathy, Batticaloa Government Agent M. Uthayakumar disclosed. According to the Disaster Management Centre, 5904 individuals have had to seek temporary shelter due to the prevailing weather conditions while 169 houses have been completely damaged during the last two days.