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Church in Sri Lanka responds to devastating floods

Posted on: June 23, 2016 10:26 AM
The Diocese of Colombo, in Sri Lanka, distributes bedding after the floods
Photo Credit: United Society
Related Categories: Ceylon, Colombo, disaster, floods, Us (USPG)

[ACNS] The Church of Ceylon has launched an emergency response to devastating floods in Sri Lanka that have claimed over 100 lives and left thousands homeless and without resources. As floodwaters recede, agencies are taking stock. Communities require emergency assistance, and there is an urgent need to prevent the spread of disease through environmental clean-up and waste management.

At least 104 people are known to have died. This number could rise as 99 people are still missing – the majority following a landslide in the western region of Kegalle, in the Sabaragamuwa Province, which destroyed three villages.

The Anglican mission agency United Society (formerly USPG) are assisting the Church of Ceylon’s response. They say that more than 128,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed, and that this number is likely to rise because of a continuing threat of further landslides. The island’s government has estimated that up to 30,000 businesses may have been affected.

“Those who have been displaced are living in temporary camps, schools, religious buildings, community centres, and with friends and relatives,” a spokesman for the United Society said. “The government and other organisations are providing food, water and healthcare. Where there is overcrowding, water and sanitation are particular concerns.”

The worst affected area is the district of Colombo, where a large number of people live on reclaimed marshland that is highly susceptible to flooding.

As part of its response, the Church of Ceylon’s Board of Social Responsibility provided 30 boats during the initial emergency rescue operations. It is now focused on supporting families in the villages of Puttalam, Chilaw, Urubokke and Dandugama.

“Families have received food, toiletries, boots, medicines, cooking utensils, bedding, water purification tablets, chlorine and cleaning materials,” the United Society said. “The church is also helping with house repairs and providing schools books and supplies so the children can continue in education.”

On its website, the Diocese of Colombo reported that “The flooding and landslides have wreaked havoc across the country. Many casualties have been reported and dozens are missing under the mud of a landslide at Aranayake.

“We are very grateful to everyone who has contributed generously in cash or kind or by volunteering their time.”

The Church is now planning for the next phase of its response, which will include assisting with the rehabilitation and reconstruction of communities as they rebuild livelihood activities.

The Church of Ceylon’s work supporting vulnerable tea plantation communities will be supported by the United Society’s Harvest Appeal.