Sri Lanka appeals for help as floods cripple water supply

A handout photo made available by the Air Force Media division shows an aerial image of landslide area at Kaluthara 80km from Colombo, Sri Lanka, on May 26, 2017.
A handout photo made available by the Air Force Media division shows an aerial image of landslide area at Kaluthara 80km from Colombo, Sri Lanka, on May 26, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka appealed for volunteers on Tuesday (May 30) to help with a massive recovery operation in the wake of devastating flooding that left 183 dead and tens of thousands without clean drinking water.

State television broadcast calls for public assistance to clean drinking wells contaminated by the monsoon floods, the worst in 14 years after record rainfall in the island's south-west.

The Disaster Management Centre said nearly 600,000 people had been forced from their homes, with thousands suffering structural damage from flood inundation and landslides.

Water supply minister Rauf Hakeem said 40 per cent of those affected did not have access to piped drinking water, and there was an urgent need to clean contaminated wells in flood-affected areas.

"Our workers have volunteered to join a major clean up," the minister told reporters in Colombo, adding water distribution stations had also been flooded, disrupting the piped supply.

The military has deployed more troops to the thousands already involved in distributing food and other essentials to flood victims in the districts of Kalutara, Ratnapura, Galle and Matara.

The disaster centre said weather in Sri Lanka was expected to improve on Tuesday, with powerful Cyclone Mora moving away from the island towards Bangladesh.

There were scattered showers in many parts of Sri Lanka in the past 24 hours but flood waters were rapidly receding, officials said.

The official death toll was at 183, with another 110 people were listed as missing as of Tuesday morning.

In May 2003, 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes destroyed after a similarly powerful monsoon.

Sri Lanka has sought international assistance, with India sending two naval ships laden with supplies over the weekend. A third ship was expected later on Tuesday, officials said.

The United Nations said it would donate water containers, water purification tablets and tarpaulins while the World Health Organisation will support medical teams in affected areas.

Japan had promised portable generators and a team of experts to help with relief work.