Floods: Batticaloa hardest hit, EU, India, US pledge aid

[TamilNet, Saturday, 15 January 2011, 14:45 GMT]
The European Union and the United States joined India in pledging emergency assistance following the massive flooding that has submerged large parts of Sri Lanka and displaced over a million people. The hardest hit region is the war-shattered Batticaloa district, officials said. The EU is providing $2.7m in assistance to be distributed through international aid agencies, AFP reported. India will provide $1m, including 34 tons of emergency supplies airlifted to Colombo Friday. The US is donating $300,000 for areas hardest-hit by the floods, including boats to local authorities in Batticaloa. The United Nations meanwhile, says it would make an emergency appeal in the coming days to seek millions of dollars to meet life-saving needs.

The floods, described as the worst in living memory have washed out crops, swamping agricultural land in the rice-growing east and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes, AFP reported.

A large number of those forced out of their homes had only recently been resettled after the decades of armed conflict.

Amid access limitations in Batticaloa, the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) has distributed 145 MT of food in support of 170,000 people, reports said.

On Friday, an Indian air force aircraft brought in 34 tons of relief supplies to Colombo. They included food, medical supplies, clothing and sleeping gear.

The distribution of Indian aid was to begin Saturday in Batticaloa, where the US has supplied to the local government to help evacuate those trapped by the flooding.

Another shipment will arrive on Monday, CNN quoted an Indian high commission official as saying.

The first Indian consignment was handed over to the Sri Lankan Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa, by Indian High Commissioner Ashok K Kantha at the Bandaranaike International Airport.

UN agencies in Colombo said that providing relief for those in the worst-affected areas was a serious challenge, and that they would shortly issue an international appeal for funding, AFP reported.

"I urge donors to generously support priority needs such as mosquito nets, clean water and food," the UN resident coordinator, Neil Bunhe said in a statement.

The European Commission decided Friday to release two million euros ($2.7 million), in emergency humanitarian aid to be distributed through international aid agencies to provide emergency food aid, water, sanitation and emergency relief items, AFP reported.

"When I see the images of devastation by the floods in Sri Lanka, I feel that it is the EU's duty to make it possible for thousands of people to receive emergency relief," said European Aid Commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva.

“My main concern for the future concerns the livelihood of those affected by the floods. These will affect their crops ... I fear the humanitarian impact of increasingly erratic weather,” she said.

"US government is donating nearly $300,000 in assistance to provide a variety of goods and services to the people hardest hit by the disaster," the US embassy in Colombo said.

“This aid has already provided boats to local governments in Batticaloa to evacuate people in the hardest-hit areas.”

The UNICEF will purify two million litres of water and has released water tanks, tarpaulins, bleaching powder, sleeping mats, buckets, soap and cooking pots as immediate relief for thousands.

"A lot of work needs to be done after the water goes down, but first we have to assist people in welfare centres, to make sure they get adequate food, medicines and clean drinking water," UNICEF spokesman Mervyn Fletcher said.



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