16 nations rush relief to flood-hit Sri Lanka

Indian Navy troops offload emergency supplies from the Indian ship Shardul at Colombo harbour in Colombo on May 28, 2017.
Indian Navy troops offload emergency supplies from the Indian ship Shardul at Colombo harbour in Colombo on May 28, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO • International aid arrived in Sri Lanka yesterday as the death toll from the island's worst floods and landslides in well over a decade rose to 203.

Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake said 16 countries rushed relief supplies and medicine to help more than 600,000 people driven from their homes after last Friday's monsoon deluge. "We also have a lot of inquiries from other countries and organisations wanting to know our immediate needs."

India and Pakistan also deployed medical teams in some of the worst-affected areas.

Military officials said they were still trying to access remote villages in Galle, Matara, Kalutara and Rathnapura, while local communities have come forward to help.

The Disaster Management Centre said the death toll rose to 203 after more landslide victims were found beneath tonnes of mud in Sri Lanka's hard-hit south-west. Another 96 people are still missing.

The government yesterday pledged to tighten construction laws, saying many landslide victims would have survived had their homes not been built on slopes.

Disaster Management Minister Anura Yapa said the government will prosecute anyone violating existing rules by building on landslide-prone slopes.

"If we don't stop this madness, we are going to end up with a bigger disaster very soon," he said.

He also pledged to demolish all illegal structures, including 10,000 in the capital alone.

"About 30 to 40 per cent of this disaster is due to illegal constructions," he said.

More than 1,500 homes were destroyed and another 7,600 suffered structural damage in landslides triggered by heavy rain last Friday.

Aid workers said the focus was slowly shifting from search and rescue to relief and recovery.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2017, with the headline '16 nations rush relief to flood-hit Sri Lanka'. Print Edition | Subscribe