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Pongal in relief camps for survivors

Hundreds of thousands of Tamils today marked the annual Pongal festival in makeshift camps in flood-ravaged eastern Sri Lanka amid a looming threat of death and disease.

world Updated: Jan 16, 2011 00:07 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Hundreds of thousands of Tamils on Saturday marked the annual Pongal festival in makeshift camps in flood-ravaged eastern Sri Lanka amid a looming threat of death and disease.

The death toll from the unusually heavy monsoon rains had risen to 32 and more than 40 people were reported missing.

Another 1.1 million residents of central and eastern Sri Lanka have been affected in the floods, which is learnt to have flooded at least a fifth of the country’s rice fields.

While the weather improved across most of the flood-affected areas on Saturday, the meteorological department in Colombo said there was a possibility of more rain in the next few days.

Because of the devastation of crops, retail prices in urban markets have already shot up.

The United Nations said it would make an emergency appeal in the coming days to seek millions of dollars to meet life-saving needs.

"I urge donors to generously support priority needs such as mosquito nets, clean water and food," the UN resident coordinator, Neil Bunhe said in a statement.

Amid access limitations, World Food Program has distributed 145 MT of food to date in support of 170,000 people in Batticaloa, the eastern district worst affected by the flood.

The UNICEF will purify two million litres of water and has released water tanks, tarpaulins, bleaching powder, sleeping mats, buckets, soap and cooking pots as immediate relief for thousands.

The United State too has stepped in with aid. "In order to help the nearly 1 million Sri Lankans affected by the recent floods and landslides, ambassador Patricia A Butenis announced that the US government is donating nearly $300,000 in assistance to provide a variety of goods and services to the people hardest hit by the disaster. This aid has already provided boats to local governments in Batticaloa to evacuate people in the hardest-hit areas," the US embassy said in a statement.

India has already sent an aircraft carrying relief on Friday. A second relief aircraft is due on Monday.

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