Storms wreak havoc, leave seven dead

Gale force winds accompanied by torrential rains which lashed most parts of the country especially the Southern Province and the central hills on Wednesday caused havoc, leaving seven persons dead and hundreds of others homeless.

The seven deaths were reported from Badulla, Galle, Wattala and Kiribathgoda, according to the Disaster Management Centre (DMC).

A 50-year-old motorcycle rider died on the Kuruwigolla-Ambalama road in Madolsima area when a tree fell on him and a three wheeler driver was also killed by a falling tree due to heavy rains and winds that ravaged the area on Wednesday night. Six people in a small lorry were injured when a tree fell on them in the Kiribathgoda area.

One of the injured, a 45-year-old resident of Kelaniya succumbed to his injuries at the Ragama Hospital. In another incident a 46-year-old resident of Hikkaduwa was killed when a boat capsized in the Kahawa coastal area of Ambalangoda.

Meanwhile, several fishing boats have gone missing in the South. It is reported that the fishermen of Dodanduwa and Tangalle have been affected due to adverse weather conditions that prevailed in the area. Three fishing vessels that sailed from Dodanduwa have gone missing. However, all the fishermen in those vessels, except one have made it to the shore safely.

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said the Director General of Fisheries, Christylal Fernando had informed him that a multi-day fishing vessel sailed from Tangalle had gone missing and a body of a fisherman had been washed ashore at Tangalle. Two fishermen from Ambalangoda and Dodanduwa have been killed and another fisherman from Dodanduwa has gone missing. Due to strong winds, the radio signal installations in Galle and Matara had also been damaged, Minister said.

Minister Amaraweera said that the bad weather would prevail during the next two days and he had requested the officials to warn the fishermen. Although the adverse weather has not affected the fishermen in the west coast area of Negombo, the Fisheries Department warned the fishermen to refrain from fishing activities as heavy rains and winds are expected to continue for the next two days.

It was reported that Galle, Matara and Ambalangoda were the worst hit areas with many power outages. Power breakdowns were also experienced in Colombo and surrounding areas. Several trees fell on vehicles as well as public property due to strong winds and fallen trees obstructed a number of roads on Wednesday night including Gregory’s Road, Keppetipola Mawatha, Baudhdhaloka Mawatha, Maligakanda Road, Kirula Road, Hettiyawatta in Kotahena, Havelock Road, Duplication Road, Davidson Road, Gowers Lane, and Flower Road. The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) cleared the roads of fallen obstructions for vehicular traffic by yesterday afternoon. A number of vehicles were damaged in and around Colombo due to trees falling on them.

Disaster Management Centre (DMC) Deputy Director Pradeep Koddippili told The Island that regional officers had been asked to gather more information on houses that were damaged due to stormy weather.

Due to the prevailing bad weather the spill gates of Rantabe dam were opened yesterday. Duty Engineer,  K. K. T. B. Rajarathne, requested people in the areas of Minipe, Hadaganawa, Hasalaka and Mahiyanganaya to remain vigilant. Four spill gates of Kotmale dam and two gates of the Kukuleganga reservoir will also be opened due to the weather conditions.

The Irrigation Department stated that the water level of Kalu, Nilwala and Gin rivers is on the rise.

Meanwhile, the Meteorology Department said the depression in the south-west of Sri Lanka had developed in to a deep depression, 200 km away from Colombo. It is expected to develop further and move to the Arabian Sea area.

Heavy rains and gusty strong winds (about 60-70 kmph) can be expected over the country and heavy rains, strong winds and rough seas can be expected in the deep and shallow sea areas, too.

Showers or thundershowers will occur in most parts of the country. Very heavy falls (about100-150mm) can be expected at some places in the Southern, Sabaragamuwa, Central, Western and Uva provinces.

The National Building Research Organization (NBRO) Landslides Research and Disaster Management Division Director R.M.S. Bandara said since the rainfall within the past 24 hours had exceeded 150mm and if the rains continued people living in disaster prone areas  would have to be evacuated to safe locations. Landslides, slope failures, rock falls, cutting failures and ground subsidence may occur in following areas:

Boraluwage Ayina, Bulutota, Ranhotikanda, Iththakanda ,Ulinduwa and Buthkanda in Kolonna DS Division in Ratnapura District, Haldulmulla and Bandarawela DS Division in Badulla District, Laggala Pallegama DS Division in Matale District, Waleboda, Boltumbe, Maratenna, Udagama and Pidaligan-arawa GN Divisions in Imbulpe DS Division Ratnapura District. Elpitiya DS Division in Galle District and Pitabeddara, Kotapala DS Divisions in Matara District.

Bandara warned people living in landslide risk areas which had earlier been identified and recommended to evacuate.

Motorists were requested to be alert when using Ratnapura-Haputale road and Ella-Wellawaya Road, according to NBRO.

Meanwhile two flights from Chennai (UL 124) and Bangalore (UL 172) that were scheduled to land at the Bandaranaike International Airport ( BIA) on Wednesday were diverted to the Mattala airport due to adverse weather conditions being experienced in Colombo, according to Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) .

On November 23, a leading Indian newspaper, The Hindu reported that Sri Lanka would bear the brunt of a storm developing in the South-West Bay of Bengal while South Coastal Tamil Nadu would also be affected as the count-down starts from the previous weekend.

Quoting the US Climate Prediction Centre, the newspaper said the centre had predicted heavy to very heavy rain over Sri Lanka and South Coastal Tamil Nadu during the ongoing week ending November 28.

However when The Island queried the Met Department on Tuesday, the Duty Meteorologist Udeni Weerasinghe denied the foreign media reports forecasting a storm. She said the Department had observed only a low level atmospheric disturbance in the Bay of Bengal which would travel over Sri Lanka towards India.

On Thursday, a Duty Meteorologist at Met Department (who refused  to reveal his name) said Sri Lanka was working closely with Indian Met Department and issued early warnings accordingly. However, he denied foreign media reports regarding a developing storm.

Usually the Duty Meteorologists reveal their names to media when they were contacted to get information, but breaking the usual practice the Duty Meteorologist vehemently refused to reveal his name to media yesterday on grounds they were not allowed to do so.

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