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“In my 37 years of living in Batticaloa I have never seen anything like this” – UNICEF official

Jan 13, 2011 1:53:47 PM- transcurrents.com

Hundreds of thousands displaced by floods in eastern Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, 12 January 2011 – Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by flooding in eastern Sri Lanka, where water levels in some areas are two metres higher than normal – and still rising.

Preceded by more than a week of intense wet weather, four days of non-stop heavy rain since the weekend have turned part of Sri Lanka into an ever-deepening lake. Crocodiles and snakes are a threat to anyone considering wading through the floodwaters.

“In my 37 years of living in Batticaloa I have never seen anything like this,” said Health and Nutrition Officer Kirupairajah Gowriswaran of UNICEF’s Batticaloa Zone Office. “Ninety per cent of the local population is affected. Everyone is occupying whatever buildings they can find on higher ground.”

Supplies on the way

UNICEF has conducted rapid assessments of the needs of flood-affected families and children, even though staff members themselves face flooding of their homes and the zone office. As the floods continue, seven truckloads of UNICEF supplies are on their way to Ampara and Batticaloa to aid families living in temporary shelters.

Floodwaters inundate the area arounbd a UNICEF zone office in eastern Sri Lanka, where crocodiles and snakes are a threat to anyone wading to higher ground.

“These supplies will help to ensure families and children have access to safe drinking water and are able to maintain basic levels of hygiene,” said UNICEF Representative in Sri Lanka Reza Hossaini. “Understandably, all schools have been adopted as temporary shelters. There are no classes for children.

Supplies en route to the flood zone include 50 water tanks (1,000 litres each), water tablets to purify 2 million litres, 7,000 tarpaulins, 7,000 sleeping mats, 3,000 buckets and 30,000 bars of soap, as well as chlorine bleaching powder and cooking pots.

Unfolding emergency

This consignment of UNICEF support is part of a wider UN effort to support the government as it provides emergency support to the affected communities. Because most roads are impassable, the Sri Lankan military is using boats to deliver much-needed aid.

“We are liaising closely with the government and other UN partners,” said Mr. Hossaini, “as we continue to monitor the flood conditions and determine how we are best able to assist those whose homes have been flooded.”

Meanwhile, the UN is expected to launch a flash appeal for emergency funds to respond to the flood crisis.