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India sends flood aid

world Updated: Jan 15, 2011 01:31 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

An Indian air force aircraft touched down at Colombo airport on Friday carrying relief material for more than a million flood-affected people in central and eastern Sri Lanka.

The relief material included dry rations like pulses, ready to eat meals, blankets, and mattresses. A second relief aircraft from India will reach on Monday.

More than 1.1 million people have been affected in the incessant rains which have so far claimed at least 27 lives.

According to government data, the initial estimated damage from the flood stood at $500 million.

Reports coming from the flood-affected areas revealed a grim picture on Friday after an overnight respite from rain was washed away in renewed downpours, which further affected the victims and hampered relief work.

A photograph of a dead baby elephant on the top of a tree – about 18 feet above ground – in the Habarana area could become the symbolic picture of the floods that have swept away thousands of homes and destroyed hundreds of acres of arable land.

"The situation is clearly worsening," said Paula Alvarado, a regional spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross told the AFP news agency in Batticaloa, the eastern district worst affected by the floods.

"Landslides continue to occur in the hilly provinces and many dams are threatening to burst. We already have over one million people affected and that number is likely to increase quickly," Alvarado said.

At a meeting with foreign correspondents on Friday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that he had given instructions to government officials to expedite the distribution of flood relief and treat it as an essential service. Rajapaksa said the floods had extensively damaged roads, houses and drinking water tanks.

External affairs minister GL Peiris met envoys from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) based in Colombo to discuss relief measures for the flood victims.

The envoys were told that the government had spent $10 million to provide cooked meals and dry rations for people in all affected areas. The Ministry of Disaster Management has released $1.5 million for relief during the three days ending 12 January. But much more was needed, the envoys were told.