With contributions by Shiran Illanperuma
Featured image: Aerial view of flood-affected areas from Friday, May 26.
Casualties And Affected Areas
According to the latest situation report by the Disaster Management Centre (May 27, 9:00 p.m.), rains, floods, and landslides across 15 districts have affected 415,618 people, belonging to 105,956 families. So far, 122 deaths have been confirmed by the DMC, along with 49 injuries, and 97 people reported missing.
The DMC also estimates that 187 houses have been destroyed, and a further 1,602 houses damaged, while 86,316 people from 20,670 families are currently being housed at 290 temporary shelters.
Affected districts include Ratnapura, Kegalle, Matale, Kandy, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Matara, Hambantota, Galle, Colombo, Kalutara, Gampaha, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Nuwara Eliya. The highest numbers of deaths were reported from the Ratnapura district (51) and the Kalutara district (42).
Extreme danger situation announced for Bandaththara Matara; People have been asked to leave the area immediately as Nilwala River overflows
— Azzam Ameen (@AzzamAmeen) May 27, 2017
Earlier in the day, the Nilwala and Kelani rivers were reported to be at risk of flooding, and people in surrounding areas were asked to evacuate.
— Farhaan Nizamdeen (@greatgalle) May 27, 2017
In the afternoon, the NBRO issued an early warning for landslides in the Ratnapura, Kegalle, Galle, Kalutara, Matara, Hambantota, Kandy, and Nuwara Eliya districts.
Search, Rescue, And Relief
Military Spokesperson Brigadier Roshan Seneviratne estimates that around 3,500 people were rescued by the Sri Lanka Navy and 2,600 were rescued by the Sri Lanka Army today. He said that there were fewer calls for help from the public today, so it is likely that fewer people were stranded.
The Army deployed 15 battalions consisting of 1,500 troops for search, rescue, and relief work. The Navy deployed 98 rescue teams consisting of 6,500 personnel. The Sri Lanka Air Force, meanwhile, deployed seven aircraft—six helicopters and one reconnaissance Beechcraft.
According to the Military Spokesperson, accessing certain areas on land has been a challenge. He noted, however, that with improved weather conditions and receding waters, rescue workers had better access to those in need of help.
The Navy had faced issues due to strong currents of flood waters, while strong winds had hampered air movements for the Sri Lanka Air Force.
According to the Sri Lanka Red Cross, rescue boats have been deployed in Galle, Kalutara, Gampaha, Colombo, and Ratnapura. In Galle, at least two people who were stranded required first aid and CPR after more than 24 hours without food. The SLRC noted that providing clean water is a priority.
— Sri Lanka Red Cross (@SLRedCross) May 27, 2017
In some areas like Gampaha, for people reluctant to leave their homes and belongings the SLRC has been working to secure them at home. In Colombo, the most vulnerable communities along the Kelani river have been evacuated voluntarily after being trained following last year’s floods. Ratnapura is currently most in need of supplies but communities in Biyagama and Hanwella are also at risk.
The SLRC also adds that while collecting donations and supplies is a positive effort, private distribution can hamper relief efforts. Relief distribution should ideally be left to the military, local government authorities, or large reputed organisations. People are advised not to be disaster tourists.
Verifying information being shared on social media is also important. The SLRC notes that earlier today, social media posts said that there was a landslide in Deniyaya and that the village was flattened, but the incident had taken place two days ago and most of the village had been evacuated.
Satellite images show pressure systems 100-200 km south of Sri Lanka. According to the Department of Meteorology, rains could begin again on May 29 and the situation could worsen.
In a press release, the United Nations has stated that the UNICEF will donate water containers, water purification tablets and tarpaulin sheets to the DMC. In addition to that, the WHO will be supporting the Ministry of Health to deploy medical teams to the affected districts.
The statement goes on to say that “The WFP and UNDP are supporting the DMC with information management. UN OCHA will provide additional human resources for coordination with Government and Humanitarian Partners. Search and Rescue efforts are on standby from neighbouring countries and can be deployed if needed.”
Aid from the Indian Government arrived this morning in the form of supplies and medical assistance via ship. Another vessel carrying relief materials is expected to reach Colombo tomorrow.
— Azzam Ameen (@AzzamAmeen) May 27, 2017
The United States, meanwhile, has pledged LKR 15 million for immediate relief via USAID and the OFDA.
— Atul Keshap🇺🇸 (@USAmbKeshap) May 27, 2017
President Maithripala Sirisena visited flood affected communities today, and pledged to proved housing to those who had lost their homes.
I visited the disaster-affected Kaluthara district this morning. The government will give new houses to those who lost their houses.
— Maithripala Sirisena (@MaithripalaS) May 27, 2017
Private and NGO-led relief work continued through the day, with calls for necessary relief items being made across social media.
— Groundviews (@groundviews) May 27, 2017
— Marianne David (@MarianneDavid24) May 27, 2017
— Ravindu Thimantha G. (@IamRavindu) May 27, 2017
Follow @Roarlk on Twitter for updates on the situation.