Death toll from Sri Lanka's monsoon rains rises to 23

Volunteers assist in placing sand bags to protect a road from flood waters in Ja-Ela near Colombo on May 26, 2018.
Volunteers assist in placing sand bags to protect a road from flood waters in Ja-Ela near Colombo on May 26, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

COLOMBO (XINHUA) - Sri Lanka's Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said on Monday (May 28) that the death toll from Sri Lanka's monsoon rains had risen to 23, while 75,000 people have been evacuated and relocated to shelters.

DMC spokesperson Pradeep Kodippili said out of the 23 killed, five had died after being struck by lightning, while some deaths were also reported due to drowning.

With more rainfall expected in the coming days, Mr Kodippili said the National Building and Research Organisation had also issued a severe landslide alert for the districts of Kalutara and Galle in the south, Ratnapura and Kegalle in south-central areas of the country and the Central Hills of Nuwara Eliya.

"People residing in these red alert areas will be evacuated to safer locations. They will have to remain there till the red alert is lifted," Mr Kodippili said.

A red alert has also been issued to naval and fishing communities in Puttalam, in northwestern Sri Lanka; Batticaloa in the east, and the capital Colombo and Galle in the south as wind speeds in coastal areas are expected to increase.

Thousands of Sri Lankan military and police personnel have been deployed in affected districts to carry out relief work.

More than 4,000 houses have been partially or fully damaged or inundated.

Several roads in Gampaha district just outside Colombo were also underwater, with the Education Ministry announcing that all schools in the district would remain closed till the roads clear.

President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last week instructed relevant authorities to immediately provide relief to the affected people.

Sri Lanka is facing its annual south-west monsoons, with the Meteorological Department in its latest weather report warning of more rains in several districts across the country in the coming days.

Fairly heavy rainfall above 50mm could be expected at some places, especially in the Sabaragamuwa and Central provinces and in Galle and Matara districts.

"There may be temporary localised strong winds during thunder showers. The general public is kindly requested to take adequate precautions to minimise damage caused by lightning activity," the Meteorological Department said.