Floods: Armed forces to the rescue again

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by Shamindra Ferdinando

The recent floods again highlighted the failure on the part of the government to strengthen Local Government authorities to provide assistance to the affected people.

Twenty three people died and over 100,000 were affected during the past several days.

In spite of grandiose promises to strengthen local government authorities in the wake of the Feb. 2018 countrywide polls, absolutely nothing has been done so far and the armed forces were called in to help people both in the north and the south.

In the run-up to the last presidential polls, yahapalana leaders lambasted the Rajapaksa administration for depending on the armed forces to perform civilian tasks.

The Navy and Air Force had to clean several canals over the last weekend. A senior official told The Island: “Personnel belonging to the Navy Marine Battalion with the help of airmen cleaned several canals located in Pattiyahandiya in Kelaniya and Peliyagoda, Welipara and Meegahawatta areas on Saturday. They removed salvinia and other debris that hampered the free flowing of water.”

The canal near Hunupitiya Sri Wijesundararamaya was also cleaned by naval personnel.

Sri Lanka National Guard troops had to intervene on Sunday to save the Anumethiyagama tank bund in Hendiyapola, Wariyapola. An official said that SLNG troops stacked sandbags around the tank bund to seal a leakage.

At Uyilankulam in the north, the Army intervened immediately after civilians brought to their notice the possiblility of Uyilankulam tank bund in Thunukai being breached. Over 100 Tamil civilians joined the 10 and 19 battalions of Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI) to save the bund by stacking nearly 3,000 sandbags also on Sunday.

The area comes under Security Force Headquarters – Killinochchi (SFHQ-KLN).

Farming civilians in the area reached the 65 Division Headquarters late Saturday (26) afternoon and informed the General Officer Commanding of the impending danger and sought assistance to minimize the damage as torrential rains continued to lash the area.

A senior military officer told The Island that the 65 Division Headquarters immediately got in touch with the Irrigation Engineer of Mullaitivu and simultaneously alerted the Kilinochchi Disaster Management Centre about the imminent disaster. About 50 tractors were deployed for the mission, the officer said.

By the early hours of Sunday (27), troops completely brought the situation under control and eliminated the threat of bank bursting. More than 500 families live in Uyilankulam tank surroundings.

The celebrated 58 Division troops now deployed outside the northern province over the weekend prevented the breach of the Elapatha tank bund in Ratnapura. A senior official said that the 6 SLLI troops intervened to prevent piercing of the bund.

The military said that Tamil civilians worked closely with troops to avert disaster and appreciated the swift response of the troops.


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