Lanka distributes Indian flood aid as toll rises to 37

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Colombo, Jan 15 (PTI) The threat of water-bornediseases loomed with water levels receding from thedevastating flooding in Sri Lanka that has killed 37 people inthe past week, as authorities today distributed food andmedicines from India.

The Disaster Management Centre said the number ofpeople killed in the floods rose to 37 with another 12 listedas missing following the week-long heavy monsoon rains thatleft over a million people displaced.

The government today distributed food and medicinesprovided by India for Sri Lanka''s flood victims, as waterlevels receded in the affected areas raising the threat ofwater-borne diseases.

Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera saidhe was in the town of Batticaloa distributing the Indian aidconsignment which arrived aboard an Indian Air Force IL-76aircraft yesterday.

"We have begun handing out the Indian aid to the mostneedy in Batticaloa," the Minister told PTI.

Economic development Minister Basil Rajapakse, thebrother of President Mahinda Rajapakse, flew into Batticaloato distribute the Indian aid and also coordinate reliefoperations, officials said.

A large number of those displaced were those who hadonly recently been resettled after decades of ethnic conflictbetween Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces.

Both local and international aid agencies said thewater levels were rapidly going down with many people able togo back to their homes to assess the damage.

The number of people in state-run relief camps fellfrom around 400,000 to about 360,000 today as flood watersreceded and the weather improved across the country.

The number of state-run camps also went down to 559from 633 since last afternoon.

Amaraweera said the authorities have also movedhundreds of doctors and nursing staff to the region to ensurethere was no outbreak of disease.

There were no immediate reports of any water-bornediseases spreading, but the authorities were moving in withthe help from UNICEF and other aid agencies to ensure peoplemaintained basic hygiene, he said.

The authorities are yet to assess the extent ofdamage, but officials said vast tracks of rice and vegetablefarms were destroyed and livestock also badly affected.

UN agencies in the capital were set to issue aninternational appeal for funding as providing relief for thosein the worst affected areas was becoming a serious challenge.

"A lot of work needs to be done after the watergoes down, but first we have to assist people in welfarecentres, to make sure they get adequate food, medicines andclean drinking water," a UN official said.

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