Photos via Sarvodaya
The flooding in Batti has gotten very bad and seems to be getting worse. By government estimates there are around 1 million people affected and thousands of homes and farms destroyed. Floods are a creeping disaster and don’t kill as many as, say, the tsunami. Thus they get less attention while still causing severe damage. Pakistan’s floods, for example, and now Australia and Sri Lanka. The tragic thing about the Sri Lankan flood is that its ongoing, relief can’t reach the affected, and people will continue to suffer for months. All without the attention and support a rapid disaster like a tsunami would bring.
The ongoing danger of the floods is that its still raining and that they cut off road access. When Colombo floods you see any number of cars stalled along the roads. This is much more dire when it affects aid convoys and lorries. If they see even a few meters of road flooded that’s a risk, but with these rains the roads seem to be flooded for kilometers at a time. Basically, aid isn’t reliably getting in or across except by boat or air. Today, even the President was unable to fly in as it’s started raining more heavily.
I spoke to Chanuka Wattegama who’s volunteering with Sarvodaya there and he said “There’s a big problem in relief reaching people the because flood level has increased, there’s no land transport, only water, even medical supplies can’t be transported. There are two arms to the lagoon, whoever needs help they bring to the other side by boat. Team of doctors wanted to reach other side but it’s raining too hard.”
He also added that the long-term impact will be huge. This is, essentially, an ongoing disaster. It’s been in the news for what would be a usual cycle, but the waters are still rising. As Chanuka just texted, he’s in Eravur (trying to get out) and there is heavy rain. He’s saying that Eravur may go under in a few hours, largely cutting Batticaloa off from the mainland.
At this point I really don’t know what anyone can do. I’ve donated what I can to Sarvodaya, through their Sampath bank local gateway. The broader issue, however, is that even if aid is gathered, it can’t reach Batticaloa if the roads are flooded. Except by boat or air, unless heavy rain makes that dangerous. And, sadly, both of those worst cases seem to be coming true.
From what Chanuka says, the refugee camps aren’t organized, people are just taking shelter where they can. He also said that shops in Batti seemed to be closed. There must be no petrol and dwindling food and fresh water supplies, and it’s still raining. At this point, the government and military have to somehow step way up, and I don’t even know if this is within their capacity. Everyone else has to just pray for the rain to stop.