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Adverse weather: Threat of health implications

29 Sep 2019

By Sarah Hannan Last week, over a period of 48 hours, four districts received an incessant downpour which caused floods, affecting 112,845 persons, while in five districts, a total of 24,284 persons were affected by strong winds, owing to a storm sweeping across a section of the island. While 44,375 persons were provided safety in 81 locations, seven persons had been injured and one death was reported owing to the adverse weather. With a total of 140,364 persons affected by storm-related incidents from five districts, a total of 778,474 are still affected by the ongoing dry spell across 18 districts. From the Hambantota District, the amount affected by the drought stood at 9,316, while the rain-related incidents had only affected 122 from the district. Furthermore, 31,820 persons were affected by the drought in the Kandy District, while only 44 were affected by heavy rains and strong winds. The Police Media Centre reported that Mohamed Johar Arshad Mansoor, a 20-year-old resident of Dematagoda, was hospitalised at the Colombo National Hospital on 24 September at about 4.40 p.m. after being rescued from the Kolonnawa Canal during the floods. The victim however died in hospital on 25 September. Even on Friday (27), a minor flood alert was issued for the Gin River at the Baddegama Station, Kalu River at the Millakanda Station, and Nilwala River at the Panadugama Station. Families compensated Minister of Public Administration, Disaster Management, and Livestock Development Ranjith Madduma Bandara said the Government allocated a total sum of Rs. 43.1 million to the affected districts to address the emergency needs, out of which, Rs. 15.78 million is for house damage insurance payoff, Rs. 25.84 million for relief, and Rs. 1.5 million for disaster response. Madduma Bandara also stated that long-term measures to relocate families from disaster-prone areas will be rolled out in the coming months. “Our objective is to ensure proactive relief is provided to the people affected by natural disasters. We are also in the process of providing housing facilities for the families that get displaced due to landslides, and we look to relocate them to safer areas free from hazards,” he added. Disaster Management Centre (DMC) Director General W.A. Dharmasiri, addressing the media, informed that the DMC is actively delivering updates about the imminent disaster situations to the public and that the public could always acquire further information and updates on the situation by calling their hotline 117. The public was also requested to be vigilant about the possible early warning signs of landslide, following the heavy downpour in certain areas. National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) Senior Scientist Dr. Padmakumara Jayasinghe informed the public to watch out for sudden appearances of water springs, cracks on the floor/ground, trees tilting, and cracks appearing on walls. Possible prevalence of dengue “Even though the floods are receding, the public is requested to avoid getting into inundated areas unnecessarily to avoid contracting skin and respiratory diseases. Furthermore, there might be high prevalence of a dengue outbreak following the extreme weather conditions,” Ministry of Health Director – Disaster Management Unit Dr. Hemantha Herath requested the public. The Sunday Morning contacted the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health to seek advice on possible diseases that could occur owing to the adverse weather. The unit responded, saying: “It is a little too soon to speculate as to what types of diseases would be prevalent in the coming days. Based on the nature of the natural disasters experienced in five districts over the past few days, we have instructed the District Medical Officer of Health (MOH) to issue precautionary warnings to their respective areas.” Since a larger number of victims faced floods and have been moved to safe locations until they are given clearance to move back to their homes, they would have to be vigilant over possible skin diseases, respiratory disease, and dengue. Therefore, the public is requested to take necessary measures to keep their environment clean. Moreover, the National Dengue Control Unit is to launch a three-day special mosquito control programme from 3-5 October in multiple high-risk MOH areas around the country to enhance the prevention and control of dengue. The unit reported that a cumulative total of 48,495 cases of dengue have been reported since January this year, with 9,545 cases being reported in the month of August. More showers Department of Meteorology Director – Weather Forecasting and Decision Support A.R. Warnasooriya informed that a high possibility of showers or thunder showers in the evening or night over most parts of the island would occur today (29). Fairly heavy falls of about 75 mm are to be expected in some places in the Southern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces and in the Kaluthara District, while rainfalls of about 50 mm are likely to be expected in some places in the Central, Uva, and North Central Provinces. Photo Krishan kariyawasam

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