Sri Lanka hit by deadly floods

The start of the monsoon season has been marked by exceptionally heavy rain across the Indian Ocean nation.

Last updated: 05 Jun 2014 09:23
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The drought is likely to have played its part in the severity of the flooding. [EPA]

At least 22 people have died in Sri Lanka after torrential rain brought flooding and mudslides across the island nation.

The country’s Disaster Management Centre reported that one person was missing and 8 others were injured.

The western Kalutara region was worst hit; at least 14 people died here as rockfalls and landslides destroyed 44 homes.

The flooding followed exceptionally heavy rainfall on the 4th; Ratnapura, in the southwest of the country, reported 325mm. This compares with an average of 412mm for the entire month of June. Just 5 days into the month and rainfall in the city has totaled 470mm.

The flooding rain is part of the summer monsoon as winds blow from the southwest. Despite the severity of the floods, farmers will welcome the arrival of the rain as Sri Lanka has been in the grips of a drought which extends back to November last year.

The lack of rainfall continued through to May which saw just half of the 475mm that would normally be expected to fall.

One third of the country’s 8.6 million-strong  labour force rely on agriculture for their livelihood. Many crops have been affected by the lack of rainfall. The  valuable tea crop has been particularly badly hit by drought conditions and 5 percent of the rice crop has already been lost.

The drought is likely to have played its part in the severity of the flooding. A lack of vegetation and hard, compacted ground are likely to enhance surface run-off.

The general progress of the southwesterly monsoon has been about one week behind schedule, consequently much of neighbouring India remains in the grip of a heatwave. Temperatures across Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi have reached  in excess of 45 degrees C. Here the cooling effect of the monsoon rain is still almost one month away.


Al Jazeera
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