UN appeals for Sri Lanka flood aid

Heavy rains, flash floods and landslides leave dozens of people dead and nearly 390,000 homeless.

    The United Nations has appealled for emergency aid for Sri Lanka where at least 38 people have died and dozens more have gone missing due to floods.
     
    The move comes days after flooding disrupted the livelihoods of many in the eastern region where vast rice fields, ready for harvest, are now under water.

    Neil Buhne, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator, said in a statement released on Friday that the UN will issue an appeal in the coming days for money to help replant the fields and compensate people affected.

    "I urge donors to generously support priority needs such as mosquito nets, clean water and food," he said.

    Nearly 390,000 remain homeless and 3,744 houses have been totally destroyed, he said.

    Widespread flooding and displacement are common in Sri Lanka, where a south western monsoon batters the island between May and September, and a north eastern monsoon runs from December to February.

    Sellaih Rasiah, a community leader in the eastern district of Ampara, said villagers affected by the devastating 2004 tsunami have lost most of their belongings and would again have to start anew.

    The government has estimated the flood losses at $500 million.

    Mine fears

    A situation report published by the United Nations has advised residents and aid workers in Sri Lanka to keep alert for undetected mines that may have shifted during floods. So far, there have not been any reported mine casualities in the eastern regions in recent times.

    "Floods and receding waters may unearth mines and explosive remnants of war and carry explosives from contaminated areas into areas thought to be safe," the UN report said.

    Years of fierce fighting in the east of the island ended in July 2007 and the army says it has cleared the vast majority of mines from the area, though no exact figures are available.

    The report added that mine clearance agencies were deciding whether areas needed to be re-surveyed after the flooding.

    A military offensive ended decades of war in 2009 when troops defeated Tamil Tiger fighters who had once controlled one-third of Sri Lanka. Both sides often accused each other of indiscriminately deploying mines.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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