Sri Lanka Floods Claim at Least 151 Lives

At least 151 people have been killed and 111 are missing because of flooding from monsoon rains across southwestern portions of Sri Lanka, according to the country’s Ministry of Disaster Management. The severe weather has also displaced nearly half a million people, and triggered landslides throughout the country. Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs activated its Emergency Response Unit and called on the United Nations’ International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, as well as neighboring countries, to help in the recovery effort. The government has deployed 2,000 military personnel to affected areas.

“We have a problem of limited resources to cope with the situation,” Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake said. “Hence we have made many appeals.” He said he expected two ships full of relief supplies to arrive over the weekend from India to help meet the need.

Among the districts most affected was Ratnapura, about 60 miles southeast of Colombo, the nation’s capital. Video images from the Asiavision Sri Lanka news exchange showed people in streets wading through water that was shoulder-deep in some places. Others showed earthmoving equipment clearing mounds of dirt in areas where landslides had blocked roads.

The monsoon rains are the the worst to hit Sri Lanka since 2003. They come after two months of drought, which had grown severe enough to warrant aid from the World Food Programme.