COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s government has raised the death toll from landslides and heavy flooding around the island nation to 73, as soldiers continue searching for scores of people missing since deadly landslides struck hill country several days ago.
As aid began to arrive Saturday on a military plane from India and a commercial flight from Japan, Sri Lankan authorities said their priority was now preventing diseases such as diarrhea, with many areas still under water.
“We have sent a large number of doctors and nursing staff to ensure there is no outbreak of waterborne diseases,” Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told AFP.
In Colombo, residents clung to ropes as they battled to cross torrents of water pulsing through the streets of the flooded capital, with some forced to take shelter in rickshaws.
The Indian government has provided inflatable boats, outboard motors, diving equipment, medical supplies, electricity generators and sleeping bags, officials said.
The first of two Indian naval ships arrived Saturday at the port in Colombo, while Australia and the United States have made cash donations to help victims.
Floodwaters in parts of the capital subsided slightly overnight, officials said, but heavy downpours on Saturday prevented many from moving back to their homes on the banks of the Kelani river.
“Colombo did not receive any significant rain last night and the water levels of the Kelani went down slightly,” Disaster Management Center spokesman Pradeep Kodippili told AFP.
“But there were showers upstream and we are worried that the water levels can rise again in a day.”