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Depression to continue

Many parts of the country experienced gusty winds and heavy rains from Wednesday night, disrupting life in many provinces. Strong winds blew across the country uprooting trees and bringing down hoardings along roads in Colombo city and the outskirts. Picture shows a tree that fell across the road near the Colombo Medical Faculty. Picture by Rukmal Gamage

Disaster Management Minister Anura Priyadharashana Yapa yesterday asked the public to remain vigilant as heavy rains and strong winds are to be experienced over the next few days.

The Meteorological Department expects showers, or, thundershowers over most parts of the island during the next 24 hours with heavy rainfall (above 100mm) to be expected in some places in the Northern, North-central, Uva, Southern, Western, Sabaragamuwa, and Central Provinces.

“Inclement weather on Wednesday night left seven persons dead, 23 missing and over 20,000 affected in 66 Divisional Secretariats in 11 districts in the country,” the minister said.

The deep depression which developed within 24 hours on Wednesday to the South West of Sri Lanka has begun to move away from the island and into the Arabian Sea.

The Meteorological Department expected this to turn into a cyclone within the next 12 hours but it would be closer to Pakistan and Iran by that time.

While one depression moved away from Sri Lanka, the Meteorological Department was froced to direct it’s attention to another,in the Eastern Coast.

“We cannot say what intensity this would take, but we are watching it”, said the Minister.

Director General of the Meteorological Department S.Premalal explained that, whilst, there was a possibility of another disturbance, “It was still in the developing stage and it was very far from us to have a direct impact”.

Addressing a media briefing, at the Ministry of Disaster Management, the Minister explained that the government had set up four welfare centres in the Nuwara Eliya District to cater to, especially over 50 families displaced in the Ella divisional secretariat division.

They have also given out 1900 tents to people whose houses have been damaged severely (Colombo-500, Galle-200, Matara-200, Kalutara-1000 tents respectively).

Community Police Division Director, SP Priyankara de Silva explained to the media that they have been working together with 400,000 community police members, around the country, to control the situation.

The SP, prioviding statistics, further said that as of yesterday, 17 properties were reported to be damaged in Galle, whilst two fishermen were killed in Hikkaduwa, one person by a falling tree in Hunupitiya,Gampaha, with, another seriously injured, another killed in Badulla by a falling tree, 10 reported missing in Ambalangoda with only one body found so far .In addition 30 families in Kataragama have been displaced. The Police Lifeguard unit, he said, has been deployed for rescue operations.

The Colombo National Hospital, in the meantime, reported that 15 casualties were brought to the hospital for medical treatment for various injuries resulting from the adverse weather. One of them died upon admission. According to sources, seven of the casualties are still receiving treatment at the hospital with two of them under Intensive Care .

The Accident Ward asked people to be careful when walking along roads because there can be fallen live electricity lines, invisible drains filled with water, fallen trees etc. Precautions should be taken to avoid injury, during bad weather.

The National Building Research Organization (NBRO), in the meantime, has issued the three warnings of yellow, amber and red in the districts of Rathnapura, Matara, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Matale, Moneragala, Galle, and Hambantota, with the districts of Rathnapura, and, Badulla receiving red notices (rain over 150mm) in the divisional secretariats of Kolonna in Ratnapura and Haldamulla,and, Bandarawela in Badulla.

They added that in the last 24 hours, no large scale landslides have been reported. Earth slips ,along the Up-country line, at Nanu-Oya, and, the main railway line, caused long delays of train services on these lines. The army was deployed to clear the blocks on the Nanu-Oya line, and, service was expected to resume by last evening.

According to the Sri Lanka Railways,the Kelani Valley railway line, too, was obstructed yesterday morning but they managed to restore the service quickly.

The other railway lines will function, as usual, but,slight delays of trains are to be expected, as some of the rail tracks are blocked by fallen trees due to the strong winds that occurred on Wednesday night.

Minister Yapa, in the meantime, stated that one trawler, in Tangalle and three boats in Dodanduwa, Galle had gone missing, on Wednesday night,despite fishermen being asked not to go out to sea,since November28.

“We have informed them but there are a few who don’t listen,” he said.

Premalal noted that the deep depression experienced this week was similar to the weather disturbances in 2011 and thus they warned the fishing and naval communities early on.

“Last time, around 50 fishermen died, but ,this time we saw it could become worse, and, so, we warned them early”, said Premalal. According to Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Department Director General Christy Lal Fernando,the fishermen of Tangalle and Dodanduwa have been badly affected due to the adverse weather condition which prevailed in the country.

During a meeting headed by Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister, Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday at the Ministry, the Director General stated that three fishing vessels that had left the shores of Dodanduwa are reported missing and a fisherman had died.

Another multiday fishing vessel that had left the shores from Tangalle is also missing and a body of a fisherman was found on the Tangalle beach. Radio signal buildings in Galle and, Matara have been damaged due to strong winds prevailed in those areas.

Meanwhile, a fisherman had died in Kahawa, Ambalangoda after his boat toppled. The fisher community is advised not to go to sea today and tomorrow due to the adverse weather condition and be alert about the bad weather warnings of the Meteorology Department.

During a meeting held three days ago, Minister Amaraweera had informed Fisheries Department officials to make the fisher community aware about the severe weather warnings published in various foreign media websites.

Navy Media Spokesman Commander Dinesh Bandara said the Navy had deployed the Sayura ship and Doras for search and rescue operations, and, he further said that the search and rescue operations will be carried out even in rough seas, in search of missing fishermen and boats.

The DMC in the meantime has sent out teams to all districts to clear fallen trees. The Ceylon Electricity Board which faced power cuts, all over the island, by Wednesday night had informed the Minister that they were restoring power to the affected areas gradually. Department of Irrigation Director Hydrology P. Hettiarachchi informed the public that water levels in the Nilwala, Gin ganga, and, Kalu ganga were rising rapidly, owing to the prevailing inclement weather conditions,in the Western and Southern provinces.

The Nilwala River, according to the Department, has its water levels reaching spill level and to the brim in the areas of Pitabeddara, Panadugama, and Sapugoda. People living downstream in these areas are advised to be vigilant.