Race to rescue Sri Lanka flood victims as toll rises

Rescuers rush to evacuate people marooned by floods before rains resume on Monday, as death toll rises to 164.

Race to rescue Sri Lanka flood victims as toll rises

Rescuers rush to evacuate people marooned by floods before rains resume on Monday, as death toll rises to 164.

29 May 2017 Monday 11:18
Race to rescue Sri Lanka flood victims as toll rises

Helicopters are searching for people marooned four days after floods and mudslides inundated parts of southern and western Sri Lanka and killed at least 164 people.

With more rain expected on Monday, rescuers were racing to evacuate villagers from the most vulnerable areas and emergency teams were rushing to distribute aid to nearly half a million people driven out of their homes by the island's worst flooding in a decade.

Some 104 people were still listed as missing, the country's Disaster Management Centre said on Monday, while another 88 remained in hospital.

The army has deployed a dozen aircrafts for the evacuation effort and to carry food and other essentials to affected areas.

Al Jazeera's Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Kalutara, south of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, said some villages in the hilly interior were still inaccessible, while others were yet to receive any aid. 

"The water levels are still quite high," she said. "There are villages that are still locked by water… with people desperately trying to get out and get supplies." 

"People in better situations have been coming together, cooking food in community kitchens."

The army said it does not expect to find any more survivors. 

'Much more needed'

The government has appealed for bottled water, new clothes and dry rations for those displaced.

India sent two naval ships laden with supplies over the weekend, while the UN said it would donate water containers, water purification tablets and tarpaulin sheets.

The World Health Organization said it would support medical teams in affected areas.

Bojan Kolundzija, Oxfam's country director in Sri Lanka, said much more support was needed.

"At present, the most immediate needs are water, food, and sanitation and hygiene kits. It should be noted that women and children are particularly affected by this disaster," he told Al Jazeera.  

"As soon as the water starts receding, an immediate cleaning operation needs to take place to prevent mosquito breeding and the spread of dengue."

Sri Lanka's health minister, Rajitha Senaratne,said medical teams have been dispatched to the worst affected areas to prevent an outbreak of waterborne diseases, and said cholera and diarrhoea had been successfully prevented in past floods.

"We have the expertise to deal with this situation," he told the AFP news agency.

The flooding is the worst since May 2003 when 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes destroyed after a similarly powerful monsoon, officials said.

Monsoon rains last year caused flooding and landslides, killing more than 100 people.

Aljazeera

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