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Country to get automatic rain gauge network soon

The Government yesterday told Parliament that an automatic rain gauge network would soon be installed to develop weather forecasting system.

Leader of the House and Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella was responding to a question raised by Joint Opposition Parliamentary Group Leader MP Dinesh Gunawardena over the poor early warning on the storm that lashed the island on November 29.

Minister Kiriella pointed out that it is hard to cope with the nature even with modern technology. He said the USA, even with its latest technological equipment, was unable to predict accurately the recent natural disaster it faced.

MP Gunawardena pointed out the Met Department had failed to adequately warn the general public on the impending disaster.

“Why don’t you resolve the main problems that crippled the work at these institutions? The Met Chief had stated that he could not issue weather alerts in Tamil as his department does not have a translator. I am sure if the Prime Minister was made aware of it, he would have taken prompt action to recruit somebody. He understands the gravity of these problems. The country is prone to more and more weather related disasters in the future,” he said.

The MP, alleging that the international warnings on impending disaster were ignored, queried whether the Government is ready to face another storm. He reminded that the people affected by the floods are still awaiting compensation.

Minister Kiriella reading out the reply on behalf of the Prime Minister said the Met Department had issued warnings for the fisheries and naval communities and added that those helped to save many lives and equipment of the fishing community. He pointed out that the Oki Cyclone developed when it was 400km away from Sri Lanka. The strong winds lashed the country were a result of the depression prior to the cyclone, he said.

He said the Cabinet approval was given to evacuate 14,860 families from landslide prone areas, and 1,122 families in flood high risk zones and resettle them in safer locations. “Under the NITF insurance scheme, compensation to a maximum limit of Rs. 2.5 million is being paid for damages to houses and small and medium scale enterprises,” he said.

“The damages to domestic appliances are compensated to a maximum limit of Rs. 25,000 and Rs. 100,000 is paid for a death,” he said.

Deputy Ministers Ajith P. Perera and Dr. Harsha de Silva joining in the conversation pointed out that the Grama Niladari Officers and Divisional Secretaries were not adequately aware of the compensation payment of the NITF.

“These officers who have no proper knowledge on assessment method are assessing as if the money is given from their own pocket or a donation. This compensation is a citizen’s right that the Government has secured by paying a premium to the NITF. The authorities must be made aware of the process,” Ajith P. Perera said.

Dr. Harsha de Silva said several Divisional Secretaries had refused to pay compensations for the damages less than Rs. 10,000.

He added that those people are entitled to receive the compensation. He noted stern action should be taken against the technical officers who failed to report to duty on the long weekend the disaster occurred.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya advised the Government to streamline the disaster management mechanism to resolve the issues.