Sri Lanka

Floods and its aftermath

May 31, 2017
More rains have been predicted while this is being written adding to havoc created by the worst flood to have hit this country in decades. Already over 160 lives have been lost, dozens reported missing and thousands displaced with the numbers likely to escalate. Over 1,200 houses have been completely damaged and according to latest reports nearly half million persons have been affected by the flood disaster. Adding to the woes of the affected are the lack of essential supplies such as food and water, with large areas still unreachable due to the raging flood waters. The government however had moved in promptly to mitigate the disaster ably assisted by the tri-forces with an Air Force officer even losing his life during the mercy mission. Ratnapura and Kalutara bore the full brunt of the flood disaster with the majority of deaths and displaced reported from these two districts. Schools have been closed in the disaster areas where life has all but come to standstill. There is also the very real possibility of an outbreak of disease that always follows a major flood and the government should be prepared to meet this challenge as well.
 
More disaster was averted by the Ceylon Electricity Board which promptly cut off power supplies to the affected areas but for which the death toll would have risen due to electrocution of the already stricken flood victims. Sluice gates too were opened in the many reservoirs to mitigate the effects of the raging floods while prompt evacuation of persons in the landslide prone areas and those living on the river banks too helped in arresting the death toll.
 
The disaster no doubt rallied all citizens of the country to the assistance of the victims which has always been a hallmark of Sri Lankans during times of crisis. This was seen in ample measure prior to this too such as during the Tsunami catastrophe although there were vultures too who preyed on the victims. The various media organisations too deserve praise for mobilsing the public in providing assistance to the flood victims, an opportunity that that did not lend itself prior to the advent of the electronic media in the days bygone, another instance where the communication revolution had stood the public in good stead. Both the President and Prime Minister are monitoring the situation firsthand and have deployed the full force of the government machinery to deal with the aftermath of the disaster. The President has also ordered that all red tape be dispensed with in the provision of relief to the flood victims while daily briefings are been arranged to handle fresh crisis situations that might crop up affecting the victims. The President also has issued instruction to grant the maximum compensation to the next of kin of those who perished in the flood disaster.
 
The Opposition too, it has to be mentioned, has not thought it fit to fish in trouble waters and have extended support to the government to deal with the emergency situation. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appealed to all countrymen to put aside all differences and rise to the occasion to provide succor to those affected. The clergy of all faiths too have appealed to their flock to rally at this moment of crisis. Dry rations and relief items are being collected in churches and temples countrywide as during the Tsunami with the public lending their unstinted assistance. The Mahanayakes in the meantime have appealed to all Buddhists to consider setting off a part of the funds earmarked for “Amisa Pooja” on Poson Poya day to help people affected by floods and landslides. The victims therefore are assured of help from all quarters but what is important is getting them back on their feet following their harrowing ordeal.
 
The flood waters not only claimed lives but also the very future of the survivors. In the deluge were washed away all their possessions and meagre belongings. All electrical goods in the homes consumed by flood waters cannot be salvaged and so are the books and clothes of school going children. Most of the half a million affected are now living in temporary shelters, some with only the clothes on their bodies. For them providing cooked meals and other forms of sustenance alone would not suffice. They need to start life afresh after the flood waters recede and here is where the government and also voluntary organisations will have to step in. The corporate sector too could assist in this noble endevour. A herculean task awaits the government in helping to rebuild the lives of the unfortunate victims and a collective effort is called for. A similar scenario that prevailed in the aftermath of the Tsunami now confronts the nation and the government will have to be equal to the challenge the like of which confronted the Chandrika administration in the wake of the Boxing Day catastrophe. On that occasion that was a national outcry for unity among all disparate forces and a similar call is warranted in this instance too if the country is to overcome the monumental natural disaster that has visited upon it. 
 
Daily News, May 31, 2017
 

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