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Floods ground Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa

[BBC, Wednesday, 12 January 2011 08:40 No Comment]

Weather conditions have forced Sri Lanka’s president to abandon a visit to areas affected by severe flooding which has displaced nearly 200,000 people and killed 18 others.

Mahinida Rajapaksa had to cancel his helicopter trip from Polonnaruwa in the east to the badly affected coastal city of Batticaloa 120km (75 miles) away.

The downpour is continuing after two weeks of rain in the centre and east.

The floods have inundated farmland and destroyed rice fields.

Emergency

The eastern cities of Ampara and Batticaloa have been worst affected by the deluge, which has left some stretches of railway line under nearly a metre of water.

Officials in Ampara say the rainfall there since Saturday has been the highest ever recorded in such a short time.

A number of big reservoirs have burst their banks, destroying paddy fields in a major rice-growing area.

People in some areas have told the BBC they have seen no sign of aid agencies or government relief, and that some people in makeshift camps have been missing out on meals.

Those displaced by the floods have squeezed into 800 camps that have sprung up in school premises, many of which are surrounded by water.

The air force has helped evacuate people and drop food supplies to some cut-off communities.

The government has made an emergency appeal for ordinary people’s help in sending dry rations, mattresses and bottled water.

Clean water and food supplies have been sent by official and international agencies to the worst-hit areas.

But the deputy disaster management minister Duleep Wijesekara said some places, such as Mutur, have been difficult to reach.

"I boarded a high-speed navy boat to get there [to Mutur], but due to the huge waves we had to turn back after sailing for about 15km. After that we had to send food in by air," he added.

The floods bring a risk of disease, including the mosquito-borne dengue fever, which even in normal times is a severe problem in the country.

[Full Coverage]

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