Extreme weather: Heavy rains cause havoc, claim 26 lives

  • Puttalam and Jaffna take brunt of the impact
  • Close to 250,000 people affected
  • Landslides take 11 lives; 49 homes destroyed

By Maneesha Dullewe

Heavy rain inundated parts of Sri Lanka last week, causing severe flooding and 26 fatalities across the country.

According to the Disaster Management Centre (DMC), as of yesterday (13), 65,704 families and 230,640 people were affected by the adverse weather conditions.

Meanwhile, troops and sailors were deployed to move affected families to safety in flooded areas, as blockages due to floating debris created bottlenecks downstream, further delaying floodwaters from receding. Navy clearance divers were deployed to clear debris from choke points to facilitate the reduction of flooding.

The Armed Forces, Police, and Coast Guard, aided by local authorities, had deployed search and rescue teams following requests by the DMC to mitigate the impact.

Reports from the DMC indicated that 49 houses were fully damaged or destroyed and 1,574 partially damaged or destroyed due to the adverse weather. The housing damage has further left more than 49,872 people displaced to evacuation centres or relatives’ houses yesterday morning. Subsequently, the number of people displaced dropped to 27,186 last evening, according to the DMC report.

The weather incidents consisting of heavy rain, mudslides, strong winds, floods, flash floods, and lightning events have mostly affected areas of the Puttalam, Kurunegala, Jaffna, and Kegalle Districts in northern and north-western Sri Lanka.

Puttalam, the hardest-hit area, reported 139,209 affected individuals and the largest number of fatalities to date so far among the districts, amounting to seven. With 10,316 families and 34,243 people affected, the Jaffna District remains the second most impacted area, while the Gampaha and Mannar Districts also reported 20,451 and 17,846 people affected, respectively.

The Kegalle and Kurunegala Districts reported six fatalities each, and the Badulla District reported four.

The National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) confirmed a prevalence of landslides, rock falls, and slope failure incidents in the Districts of Galle, Kegalle, Kurunegala, and Kandy during the past week, resulting in 11 deaths in the period between 8-11 November. Landslides and slope failures proved to be particularly fatal in the Kegalle District during this time, with eight deaths being reported from the District alone.

According to the Department of Meteorology (DoM), light to moderate rain and wind was expected for most of Sri Lanka, with possible strong winds and rough sea conditions off the east coast.

However, the DoM was not expecting any further direct impacts over the island from the inter-monsoon.

The DMC said that they were responding to the crisis through the Grama Niladhari officers and other local authorities in the respective districts, with relief being dispatched to the affected individuals. 

A total of 4,151 people were evacuated to 47 safe centres and evacuation shelters around the country between 29 October and 13 November. However, the DMC report from last evening noted that, with the improved weather conditions yesterday, the number of people in evacuation centres/shelters has dropped to 1,347. However, disaster relief mechanisms are still in place, it noted.