Vanni flooding misery continues without relief

[TamilNet, Saturday, 12 January 2002, 20:22 GMT]
(News Feature) The effects of heavy flooding two weeks ago in the Mullaitivu and Kilinocchi districts of the Vanni are still being felt across the regions, with roads rendered impassable, schools and settlements flooded out and residents suffering a lack of support from the government and Non Government Organisations (NGOs) based in the area, Tamil press reports this week said. Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected, with many being displaced from their homes and refugee camps as a result of the deluge. Vital supply routes have been cut, aid workers said.

The Vavuniya representative of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, Mr Kishor, who returned recently from a five-day fact finding visit to the Vanni, said that most main roads in the Liberation Tiger controlled areas have been submerged in water from swollen rivers and lakes that have breached their banks. During his visit, Mr. Kishor had sought to make arrangements for the ferrying of supplies to the region prior to the relaxation by the new United National Front government of the decades-long economic embargo.

"Lorries taking supplies to these areas normally set off from Kilinochchi and pass through Konavil, Akkarayan, Vannerikulam, Jeyapuram, Mulangavil, Vellangkulam, Illuppaikadavai, Pallamadu, Periyamadu, Palampitty Madu and Periyathampanai before reaching the border with government controlled areas at Piramanalangkulam. But, water tends to submerge many parts of this road in rainy seasons" said the Red Cross representative.

"Floods have currently cut off the route in three places near Akkarayankulam, two near Puthumurippukulam and three near Vannerikulam. Lorries often become bogged down in these places while many are damaged due to the incessant loading and unloading of their cargo to avoid getting into difficulties."

Engineers from the Vavuniya-Mannar provincial development office had recently gone to the area to make studies into renovating the roads. They also surveyed roads in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Puthukkudiyiruppu, Mallavi and Mankulam. Repair costs for the 70km stretch from Piramanalangkulam to Vellangkulam are expected to be around Rs 65 million, officials said.

Many displaced peopleís settlements in Jeyapuram, Pooneryn have been damaged by the floods, while more than 350 houses in various settlements across the region have sustained serious flood damage.

Mullaitivu's schools have suffered damage estimated at Rs 15 lakhs from the floods along with blocked access from flooded roads and are finding it difficult to continue with classes. Temporary huts in all of the districtís schools have been damaged, with most losing the mud walls which were all that stood between the students and the elements.

Toilets have collapsed while the fast flowing water has eroded the surface of most playgrounds, leaving them riddled with potholes. Most schools have also been relieved of perimeter fencing by the wind and rain. Roughly half the damage is now being slowly repaired, but only with mud walls and temporary roofs, once again, said the reports.

Officials say that due to the severe shortage of furniture most students have to sit on the floor or outside on the ground. But floodwater has entered many classrooms and the floors are soggy, leaving the students with nowhere to have lessons. The government in the past has repeatedly turned down requests from schools functioning with temporary structures for funds to build sturdier structures, education officials said.

Some schools have also been affected by the more than ten thousand families who have taken refuge from severe flooding in the schools and government buildings, said the principal of one of the schools.

The Government Agent (GA) for Mullaitivu said that while Rs 8 lakhs was needed to provide immediate relief, only 1.5 lakhs had been received from NGOs. "180,000 people live in Mullaitivu. These floods one way or another has affected them all," he said.

Even families entitled to relief under government assistance schemes have not been receiving them, with the Mullaitivu GA reporting that 16,901 families entitled to dry rations being denied them by the previous government. 31,981 families, displaced from other areas, also reside in Mullaitivu.

Of them 29,038 are entitled to receive dry rations. Permission has been granted for 22,427 of these families to receive their entitlements, but the former Peoplesí Alliance (PA) government only gave rations to 12,137 families, leaving the rest desperate, said the Uthayan newspaper. The Mullaitivu GA has asked the new government to supply relief to the 16,901 families who are currently receiving none.


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