June 2, 2008 / 7:04 AM / 10 years ago

Sri Lanka flash floods kill 16, displace thousands

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Floods triggered by torrential rain have killed at least 16 and forced thousands of people from their homes in Sri Lanka, with some taking shelter in schools and temples, officials said on Monday.

Flooding, often fueled by monsoon rains, and ensuing mass displacement are common in Sri Lanka.

“The death toll had gone up to 16 with four people in the same family including (an 18-months-old) infant and an 11-year-old girl killed by a landslide.” said Keerthi Ekanayake, national coordinator at the National Disaster Management Centre.

He said more than 150,000 people had been affected by the heavy rains.

The Meteorology Department forecast continued rainfall in coming days with the start of the southwestern monsoon.

There are 25 camps set up for internally displaced people, Ekanayake added.

He said most of the displaced were living with friends and relatives.

Heavy torrential rains struck the Indian Ocean nation’s western districts of Colombo, Gampaha and Kaluthara, the southern districts of Galle and Mathara, and the Gem mining district of Rathnapura.

In March more than 7,000 people were displaced from their homes in eastern Sri Lanka, including families living in basic camps who had been forced to move there by renewed war between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels.

In January, more than 30,000 people were displaced in the east by monsoon flooding, while in December 175,000 people took refuge in welfare centres and temples in the eastern and central parts of the country following flash floods.

The infrastructure of Sri Lanka, with a population of 20 million, has long been neglected because of a protracted war between the state and the Tamil Tigers, which has killed more than 70,000 people since 1983.

Flooding and drought are cyclical in Sri Lanka, where a southern monsoon batters the island between May and September, and a northeastern monsoon runs from December to February.

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