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Indian Navy troops offload emergency supplies from INS Shardul at Colombo harbour in Sri Lanka on Sunday. Photo: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP
Indian Navy troops offload emergency supplies from INS Shardul at Colombo harbour in Sri Lanka on Sunday. Photo: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP

Sri Lanka floods: Indian Navy teams deployed as death toll rises to 180

Diving and medical teams of Indian Navy have been deployed to assist Sri Lanka Navy's operations in the flood-hit southwestern region of the country

Colombo: Indian Navy diving and medical teams have been deployed to assist Sri Lanka Navy operations in the flood-hit southwestern region, as the death toll from the disaster on Monday rose to 180, with 110 people still missing in the island nation’s worst torrential rains in 14 years.

Rescuers pulled out more bodies buried in the mudslides triggered by monsoon rains, taking the death toll to 180. The death toll is expected to rise further as 110 people are still missing, according to Sri Lanka’s disaster management centre.

Sri Lankan Navy spokesperson Chaminda Walakauluge said two Indian ships—INS Kirch and INS Shardul—have arrived and “they joined us (Sri Lanka Navy) in extending relief". Indian Navy diving and medical teams that arrived in INS Shardul on Sunday have been deployed to assist rescue operations at Kalutara, Ratmalana and Galle.

Indian high commission here tweeted images of “Indian diving and medical teams deployed at Kalutara, Ratmalana (and) Galle with (Sri Lankan) navy relief (operations)."

Indian Navy personnel of the INS Kirch that arrived in the island on Saturday are currently engaging in flood relief operations at Udugama and Galapatha in the Kalutara district in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Navy.

“They are here as part of India’s continued commitment to assist in flood relief efforts in Sri Lanka in response to a request from the government of Sri Lanka," the Indian high commission said.

INS Shardul has nearly 200 personnel on board, including specialised rescue, diving and medical teams, as well as a large amount of relief material and gemini inflatable boats. INS Kirch was carrying 125 personnel. It had diving teams, relief supplies, inflatable gemini boats and a mobile medical teams.

This handout photo released by Sri Lanka Air Force shows a road submerged in floodwaters. Photo: AP/PTI
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This handout photo released by Sri Lanka Air Force shows a road submerged in floodwaters. Photo: AP/PTI

The Indian ships brought in rice, atta (flour), dal, sugar, bedsheets, blankets, durries, rain coats, milk, biscuits etc. The rescue, diving and medical teams on board were deployed in coordination with the Sri Lanka Navy and other authorities, in the worst affected areas in the south and the Western regions of Ratnapura and Horana, Sri Lankan Navy said.

A third Indian ship, INS Jalashwa, with additional relief material, is also expected to arrive on Monday with more relief. Lankan foreign minister Ravi Karunanayake thanked India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for providing assistance within hours of a request being made.

Karuanayake said Prime Minister Modi’s gesture demonstrated the new level of Indo-Lanka relations under the current government of the President Maithripala Sirisena.

Meanwhile, the meteorology department on Monday warned of more rains followed by strong winds and people residing in low-lying areas in the south were advised to evacuate to safer locations as all the major rivers are overflowing. More rains are expected in the next two days as the depression in the east central Bay of Bengal intensified into a cyclonic storm “Mora“ and is now moving away from the island, it said.

The incessant rains experienced since Thursday night have driven nearly half a million people out of their inundated homes in the southern and western regions. Police said a Sri Lankan Airforce helicopter (SLAF) MI-17 carrying relief aid for flood victims crashed in the southern Galle district, the worst-hit of the 14 districts by flash floods and earth slips in the ongoing monsoonal rains, while carrying out relief operations in the flood-stricken areas.

There were no casualties and Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena telephoned Squadron Leader Bhanuka Delgoda, the pilot of the MI-17, to congratulate him for his bravery. The pilot lost control of the helicopter due to bad weather and crashed into woods, police said. On Saturday, a Lanka Air Force airman, Y.M.S. Yaparatne, 37, died while carrying out relief operations in the Galle district as he fell off the helicopter.

Flood waters were receding in the worst-affected districts of Ratnapura and Kalutara but the authorities said cleaning up operations could take weeks. Some 412 houses were fully damaged with over 4,200 houses suffering partial damage. Some 4,71,000 people remain displaced while over 75,000 people are currently being housed in over 330 temporary relief accommodation.

Following India’s lead in sending out emergency relief to Sri Lanka, more countries have started pledging assistance to provide relief to the flood victims. China is to donate relief items worth of $2.2 million.

The relief goods, to be dispatched to Colombo by a chartered flight soon, include tents, blankets, sheets, rain boots and life jackets. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang sent condolence messages to President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe respectively on the loss of the lives and property in floods and landslides caused by heavy rain.

The flooding is the worst since May 2003 when 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes destroyed after a similarly powerful Southwest monsoon, officials had said. Sri Lanka, which has been heavily deforested for cash crops, often witnesses landslides during the monsoon season.

Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet ships put at highest alert

The Indian Navy’s Eastern fleet ships have also been put on the highest state of readiness so that help can be extended promptly in case cyclone Mora hits parts of Bangladesh. The cyclone has been heading towards north and north-east direction from its present position in the Bay of Bengal.

The India Meteorological Department has made a forecast that it will hit Chittagong in Bangladesh by Tuesday. “It is likely to turn into deep depression and make a landfall in Bangladesh by tomorrow afternoon/evening. Indian Navy Eastern Fleet ships are at the highest state of readiness to render assistance if required," a senior Navy official said.

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