Sri Lanka Flood Affects Nearly One Million People
Sri Lanka deploys troops for flood relief operations
CNN.com, Jan. 13, 2011
Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Thousands of Sri Lankan troops have launched a massive operation to rescue nearly a million people affected by floods in the central, north and eastern provinces.
The flooding has killed at least 13 people, officials said.
More than 28,000 troops, backed by transport helicopters and navy boats, are rescuing flood victims and delivering food, authorities said. It is the biggest troops operation since the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels one-and-a-half years ago.
The flow of food to affected areas "is going on smoothly," said Maj. Gen. Boniface Perera, Sri Lanka army's eastern commander.
Authorities are making arrangements to take baby food, mosquito repellents and medical supplies to the area, Perera said.
The operation follows President Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to the flood-hit area Wednesday.
Rajapaksa visited the district of Polonnaruwa, and returned to Colombo after his helicopter was unable to travel to the other two affected districts of Batticaloa and Ampara because of poor visibility.
In Colombo, the president ordered government officials to speed up relief efforts.
State and private organizations were setting up centers in Colombo and its suburbs to collect relief items for affected victims.
On Wednesday, two youth were electrocuted when they climbed a tree to avoid raging flood waters in a village of Ariyampathu, south of the eastern capital of Batticaloa.
At least 966,600 have been affected by floods in the three provinces, according to the Disaster Management Center in Colombo. About 195,000 people displaced are being housed in hundreds of camps.
Government officials in the areas affected have been ordered to provide those displaced with cooked meals, authorities said. Aircraft were ferrying cooked meals to the affected areas while navy boats were delivering them to the victims.
Rajapaksa warned his Cabinet Ministers on Wednesday night that the country should brace itself for a food shortage.
About 125,000 acres of paddy land, used to grow rice, a staple for Sri Lankans, have been devastated by the floods, the president said.
Mounting prices of vegetables have also sparked concern. For the first time in post-independent Sri Lanka, the military was manning vegetable-selling outlets. The vegetables were collected from production areas in army trucks.