La Nina, the cause for EP floods
If an area of the country receives a rainfall that is equal to half
its annual rainfall in ten days what sort of a disaster situation will
The districts of Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee in the Eastern
province faced such a situation in 12 days. The rainfall that was
recorded from Batticaloa district from January 1 to 12 stood at 894 mm,
according to Meteorological Department statistics.
The average annual rainfall of the Batticaloa district is 1650mm and
the district has experienced half of its annual rainfall in just 12
days. Batticaloa district has also experienced a rainfall of 1606.2mm
from December 1, 2010 to January 12, compared to the 1650 mm annual
rainfall recorded from the district.
The Trincomalee district experienced a rainfall of 1330.6 mm from
December 1, 2010 to January 12, compared to the average 1580 mm rainfall
The Meteorological Department explained that the situation in the
Eastern Province was due to La Nina phenomenon happening over the
Pacific region affecting the Indian region as well.
India and Australia were also identified as regions affected by the
The country experienced the worst ever flood situation in the Eastern
province affecting more than 992,179 people and 105,668 people in 16
districts of the country.
The situation has prompted the Government and other aid agencies to
make an urgent appeal for immediate relief as rains that were lashing
the country coupled with gusty winds continued to hit many parts of the
country, especially in the Eastern province since January 8.
The Disaster Management Ministry quickly responded but could not cope
with the situation as the number of people driven out of their homes due
to increasing flood waters were all over the Eastern province. It was
the machinery of the Security Forces that came to the rescue of the
According to Disaster Management Centre (DMC) Director General Major
General Gamini Hettiarachchi all government machineries were effectively
operated to cater to the need of the flood affected regions.
As per statistics issued by the DMC on Friday the biggest number of
people affected from floods were reported from the Batticaloa district
with 541,688 people belonging to 145,131 families. Nine deaths were
reported from the district while more than 5,500 houses were damaged
fully or partially.
Many of the affected people were housed in the 275 IDP camps in the
district for nearly five days.
Ampara was the second most affected district with 418,154 people
belonging to 112,384 families being affected. Nine deaths were reported
from the district.
Many parts of the Trincomalee district such as Muttur and Kinniya
were made inaccessible even to Navy personnel, compelling the Air Force
to airdrop dry rations.
According to DMC officials it was the worst disaster to affect the
Eastern province after the 1978 cyclone that hit the entire Eastern
President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited the flood affected Polonnaruwa
district on January 12, to inspect the distribution of relief along with
Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera.
He gave instructions to government officials to provide whatever
possible assistance for the flood affected.
He also directed the Presidential Secretariat to open a centre for
collection of flood relief from donors. Many media organisations
including the ANCL also appealed for flood relief.
The Security Forces, played a key role to rescue people marooned in
floods in many parts of the Eastern province and Polonnaruwa rescuing
many who were in distress as flood waters cut them off from the rest of
The Navy deployed its rescue teams along with boats in all districts
in the Eastern province and many teams were kept standby to respond to
According to Navy Spokesman Captain Athula Senerath 23 Naval teams
with fibre glass dinghies and rubber floatable dinghies were continuing
their rescue assistance in liaison with Government officials in the
Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts.
"Naval personnel are engaged in the evacuation of people in trapped
homes and buildings ferrying to the safer places, distribution of food
and cooked meals and provision of medical assistance to the sick and
wounded in the flood-hit areas", Captain Senerath said.
The Navy rescued 293 Army personnel, their belongings and the camp
equipment at the Thanthirimale Army camp flooded by the overflowing
"The Navy deployed four naval vessels to evacuate the Army personnel
in the early hours of January 11 to rescue the them who were on tree
tops seeking assistance", Captain Senerath said.
Air Force Spokesman Group Captain Janaka Nanayakkara said the Sri
Lanka Air Force continued their mission to provide relief aid to victims
in the Eastern province by airlifting consignments of dry rations using
The operations which began January 11, 2011 from SLAF China Bay,
airlifted 5,200 kilograms worth of dry rations including dhal, sugar,
rice, milk powder in a Mi-17 heavy-lift helicopter bound for Somawathiya
in the Polonnaruwa District, he said.This was followed by another
consignment carrying 9,700 kilograms of essential goods sent by a Mi-17
from SLAF Base Hingurakgoda to the same location. Both consignments were
dropped at the school grounds of Somawathi Devi Vidyalaya. The Air Force
spokesman said 54 people including a pregnant woman were rescued by SLAF
choppers in the Batticaloa district.
The Mi-17 helicopters carried out a ration drop at Thoppigala on
Thursday morning providing relief aid to flood victims.
Army troops also responded to the flood catastrophe, rescuing more
than 450 civilians, marooned or trapped in Polonnaruwa, Gravel Kanda,
Pallakkadu, Thoppigala, Ampara, Vellaweli areas with the use of boats
Army troops, averting a major catastrophe were able to prevent the
breach of several lake bunds in Kondawattuwana, Ampara, Nawagiriaru,
Giritale, Pimburuttewa, Eruwewa tanks and a few more in other areas
using sand bags in the past two days.
Troops and government agencies are busy providing temporary
alternative shelters, cooked meals, dry rations, medicine, clothes and
other essentials in the East, North Central Province and elsewhere to
those affected civilians. The Army is taking care of over 350,000
displaced people in the East, belonging to some 90,144 families with the
support of other agencies.
The Director General of the DMC Major General Hettiarachchi said that
they received excellence support from the Security Forces personnel for
flood relief operations.
"They gave away their own food ration for the flood-affected people
in the Eastern province", he added.
The DMC has allocated Rs. 149 million to look into the immediate
needs of the floods-affected people. "Out of the total amount Rs.75
million has been allocated for the Batticaloa district which is the
worst affected", he added.
The Director General said that whilst taking steps to provide
immediate assistance to the flood-affected the DMC along with the
Disaster Management Ministry and other relevant officials are taking
immediate steps to provide assistance for the people to reconstruct
their damaged houses, to clean their wells and restore sanitary
According to DMC statistics 2,509 houses in the Batticaloa and Ampara
districts have been fully damaged while 7,891 partially damaged due to
"Drinking water sources have been contaminated in the Eastern
province and the DMC along with the Health Ministry officials are taking
precautionary action to avoid an outbreak of water borne diseases", he
"In addition we are also taking steps to repair damaged tanks and
reservoirs", he added.
According to the Irrigation Department for the first time after
several decades 59 reservoirs scattered all over the country reached
spill level. Only three reservoirs had a water level less than 75
percent of the capacity.
"Many tank bunds have been damaged due to the overflowing of tanks in
many districts", officials added.
According to Director Disaster Mitigation W.U.L. Chandradasa, in
addition to unbearable rainfall to the Eastern province the canals and
waterways in the eastern province which have not been cleaned for many
years have also contributed to the worst flood situation.
"Broadening of estuaries is also needed to avoid major flood
situations in the Eastern province since estuaries have not been widened
during the past few years", he added.
"The DMC has proposed a project to improve the urban drainage in the
Ampara and Batticaloa districts to mitigate future flood situations", he
Apart from this developing a tank system in the upper streams of the
Ampara and Batticaloa districts have also been proposed to retain the
waters flowing to the two districts , he added.
Funds Released by the Ministry of Disaster Management for Relief
Districts as at 12.01.2011 in Rs. Million Ampara - 15.50, Batticaloa -
75.00 Polonnaruwa - 3.50, Badulla - 0.30, Anuradhapura - 2.50,
Trincomalee - 5.00, Mannar - 5.10, Matale - 5.50, Kandy - 1.30,
Moneragala - 0.72, Vavuniya - 18.00, Mullaitivu - 0.42. Other areas 5.0.