With the sudden onset of heavy rains, concerns with regards to disaster management during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resurfaced. 

The heavy rainfall that was witnessed in various parts of the country is expected to continue. Earlier today (20), the Natural Hazards Early Warning Centre of the Meteorology Department has predicted rainfall as heavy as 100 millimeters in some places, thus resulting in the Centre issuing an ‘Amber’ warning to the general public. 

Warnings

According to the Department of Meteorology, the prevailing showery conditions in the Western, Sabaragamuwa, Central, Southern and Uva provinces are due to low-level atmospheric disturbances near the country. 

A minor landslide was reported on the Southern Expressway earlier today (20) resulting in its temporary shut down. 

A section between Pinnaduwa and Imaduwa area—regularly prone to landslides of varying scale—was closed off for a short period of time, disrupting vehicular traffic.  

Meanwhile, the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) has issued landslide warnings to those living in Colombo, Kalutara, Kegalle, Ratnapura and Galle. 

COVID-19 Preparations

Director-General of the Disaster Management Centre, Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe told Roar Media, that although the situation is not critical, the authorities are ready to face the oncoming storm. 

The contingency plan by the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) of Sri Lanka, to address the potential natural disasters during the COVID-19 pandemic, includes several new additions.

This year’s strategy, according to the Director-General of the DMC Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, includes health guidelines that have been introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Here are some of those new guidelines:

  • If in an evacuation situation, families in risk zones should stay with relatives living outside the zone, instead of moving into disaster shelters as before. 

  • Citizens are advised to identify a safe location beforehand.

  • Families living in high-risk zones are requested to update their ‘emergency kits’ with facemasks, a bar of soap or hand sanitiser.

  • Public health officials will make regular visits to safe locations.

  • At disaster relief shelters, social distancing will be a priority. However, the focus will be to let people stay with friends or relatives living outside the risk zones.

  • Families living in safe locations will be provided with rations by the DMC.

  • When cooking food, make sure to use boiled water in order to avoid diseases.

“All the plans are done, and the programmes in place. We are prepared, but there is no critical situation as of now. So far, so good,” Ranasinghe assured.

Reminding the public that COVID-19 is still prevalent, Ranasinghe appealed to the public to follow the aforementioned guidelines in order to avoid safety and health during the pandemic time.