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Sri Lanka floods recede

world Updated: Nov 12, 2010 10:46 IST

Thousands of displaced people in Sri Lanka's capital were moving out of temporary shelters as flood waters receded, but a man drowned Friday, raising the number of fatalities to two, officials said.

The man perished when his makeshift boat capsized in a swollen river near the capital, which was deluged by the heaviest rains in 18 years on Thursday.

"Nearly 300,000 people were driven out of their homes initially, but thousands have left the 16 temporary shelters we had set up," a disaster management official said.

The national assembly was also flooded, forcing parliamentary speaker Chamal Rajapakse to take a boat Thursday to inspect the building, located on an island in a man-made lake, which is usually reached by a causeway.

Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said the flooding was caused by the loss of marshes in Colombo which had previously acted as a sponge to soak up water during downpours.

Most of them have been drained for housing development.

The government sent in army, navy and air force personnel to assist the rescue and relief efforts as the heavy deluge inundated most parts of the capital where over 600,000 people live.

Traffic was heavy as parts of several roads were still underwater, causing diversions.

Sri Lanka depends on monsoon rains for irrigation and power generation but the seasonal downpours frequently cause loss of life and damage to property in low-lying areas.

The island's two main monsoon seasons run from May to September and December to February.