The devastating floods and landslides that follow Sri Lanka’s torrential monsoon rains have resulted in significant property damage and casualties. According to the Disaster Management Centre (DMC), about twenty families lost their dwellings.
Each time the country is hit by adverse weather, people are evacuated by the hundreds or even thousands and a significant number of deaths are reported. While it is true that torrential rains are not directly a man-made disaster and may not be able to controlled, is there a way to put an end to this vicious cycle of property damage, deaths, evacuations, and relocations?
Loss of life
All of the schools in the Nuwara Eliya District had to be closed due to the intense monsoon rains. Due to the heavy rains that occurred, some estate schools that were located in low-lying locations were flooded, resulting in significant damage to them. Thus, all township and estate schools in the Nuwara Eliya District were closed.
Nearly 500 families in five districts and four provinces were impacted on 1 August. Jaffna, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Galle, and Ratnapura are the districts. Despite no fatalities being reported, 403 families were evacuated and 24 partial house damages were documented.
Nearly 12,000 people from 3,000 families were impacted on 2 August in seven districts throughout four districts. In Ambagamuwa, Nuwara Eliya, there were three confirmed fatalities, four reported missing, and 461 families evacuated.
On 3 August, three deaths were recorded and four people went missing, affecting close to 13,000 people from close to 3,000 families. Due to the bad weather, 2,313 people from roughly 500 families had to be rescued.
After two houses collapsed and a father of three perished under a mound of earth on 1 August, there was severe rain in the Norton Bridge area. The victim is Sanjiva Wimalaweera, a 40-year-old father of three who lives in Taplow Colony in Norton Bridge.
According to the reports, both houses collapsed simultaneously as the victim was packing his possessions, as landslide warning signs first occurred on 1 August at around 1:00 p.m. The two homes fell with no one else inside. The victim is also the father of an Army soldier stationed at the Lakshapana Army Camp.
After a landslide on 1 August, soldiers from the Lakshapana Army Camp found his body. The Nawalapitiya District General Hospital’s Judicial Medical Officer received the body for post-mortem examination.
In order to avoid traffic on the partially flooded portion of the main Norton Bridge fire trail until it is repaired, Norton Bridge Police are requesting that drivers use alternate routes.
Despite the fact that more than 14 divisions were impacted by the bad weather, no significant events were reported, according to Kandy District Disaster Management Coordinating Unit Assistant Director K.A.D.K.S.D. Bandara. Nevertheless, it was determined to send out landslide alerts. However, mud-filled railroads and earth slips made public transportation difficult. He said until the railroads were cleared, they had to stop the trains for one or two days.
A Disaster Management Centre Officer said, torrential rains that hit the Nawalapitiya Divisional Secretariat area on 1 August, caused 3,870 people, or 850 households, to be relocated. Two bridges erected to cross the canals that flowed into the Mahaweli River were completely destroyed, along with the town of Nawalapitiya, its surrounding homes, and a tourist hotel.
The search for a 17-year-old girl who went missing after visiting the Galaboda Waterfall with her boyfriend has been intensified by neighbours and Nawalapitiya Police Officers. According to Nawalapitiya Police, three people, two men and a woman, were hit by floodwaters as they crossed the Katabulawa Bridge and vanished as they attempted to enter the Katabulawa Estate.
Members of the families that were adversely impacted by the heavy rains were briefly present in two public sites in the Nawalapitiya neighbourhood.
Due to the torrential rains that poured in the Nuwara Eliya District on 1 August, three people perished and four went missing. Heavy rains have caused a total of 648 members of 254 households from the three Divisional Secretariat divisions of Kothmale, Ambagamuwa, and Nuwara Eliya to be relocated, and they are presently residing in the makeshift displacement camps.
The Divisional Secretariat worked to give the displaced people the necessary prepared food and dry rations and to raise money for the funeral expenses of those who perished as a result of the torrential rains. The Divisional Secretariat also stated that steps would be taken to offer land and funding for the construction of new homes to replace those lost to landslides.
Matara District Disaster Management Coordinating Unit Assistant Director, Lieutenant Colonel A.B.G.R. Mendis said there was no need for evacuation, as the flood level had steadily decreased by last Wednesday. But he said landslide threats existed, and alarms were sent out as a result.
Along with the present unfavourable weather, people are also suffering significantly as a result of the sudden floodings that occurred in many areas of the Mulatiyana Divisional Secretariat Division as a result of the Kirama Oya’s overflow on 1 August.
Due to this, the heavily populated city of Deiyandara was inundated, and businesses, residences, and modes of transportation as well as daily activities were all disturbed by power outages. Additionally, as a result of the present fuel shortage, many people who travelled to Deiyandara to get petrol were unable to return home because of floods.
Farmers in Makandura, Ransagoda, Seenipalla, and other nearby places said paddy fields that were about to be harvested were swamped and ruined as a result of the flood. A tractor was also washed away by the river that day in the Ovilana area on the Deiyandara major road in Mulatiyana.
Ratnapura District Disaster Management Coordinating Unit Assistant Director S.H.M. Manjula said although there had been intermittent rain, flooding had occurred for a while. However, because of the weather, they had to evacuate at least 1,788 families.
In the Ratnapura District on 2 August, 1,666 families and 6,495 people were experiencing hardship as a result of recent natural disasters such as floods, strong winds, and bank collapses, Ratnapura District Secretary, Malani Lokupothagama said
Floods and landslides affected 11 of the district’s 18 Divisional Secretariat divisions, and as a result, the Badulla Main Road from Colombo to Ratnapura Bandaranayaka Mawatha, the Ratnapura-Panadura Main Road from the Kahangama and Dewalegawa areas, the Ratnapura-Alapata Road, and the Malwala-Ratnapura Main Road from the Godigamuwa area were blocked.
The disaster has had an impact on Godakawela, Alapata, Nivithigala, Kalawana, Ayagama, Kahawatta, Weligepola, Ratnapura, Balangoda, Pelmadulla, and Kolonna’s 11 Divisional Secretariat Divisions.
Rockfalls and landslides have been reported in a number of other places. In Kahawatta, a mound of earth had collapsed, causing damage to a home. The Divisional Secretariat divisions of Pelmadulla, Balangoda, Kiriella, and Opanayake have received second-level danger notices. The six Divisional Secretariat divisions of Ratnapura, Ayagama, Kuruwita, Kalawana, Kahawatta, and Nivithigala received first-level risk notifications.
Kegalle District Disaster Management Coordinating Unit Assistant Director H.M.A.C. Bandara claimed that even if the bad weather had little effect on people, the recently constructed Berennawa Bridge had collapsed, putting at least 52 families in danger. According to him, the Berennawa Bridge was recently built and has also collapsed twice before.
However, it is being rebuilt and assistance is being provided to the four affected villages by the Kegalle District Disaster Management Coordinating Unit with the assistance of the Tri-Forces.
Upcountry rail services
Mound collapses, tree falls, and rock slides were reported in a number of locations along the Upcountry Railway Line following heavy rainfall in the Central Province. There were many obstacles impeding trains, and the Department of Railways decided to cancel the Mail Train.
In the area hit by the calamity, Department of Railways staff have been working tirelessly to remove trees, mud, and stones. However, numerous stones that have fallen on the railway track close to Watawala have not yet been removed.
In addition to the Night Mail Train, two trains that were plying from Colombo to Badulla and two trains plying from Badulla to Colombo on 2 August were also cancelled. Meanwhile, on the Kelani Valley Line, a train bound for Colombo Fort derailed on 3 August, at the first platform in Maharagama.
(Pix By Neeta Pathma Kumari, Channa Addarage, T. Wijesekara, and K.A.S. Piyathilaka)
By Thameenah Razeek