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Over half a million attended to pooja
Somawathiya pilgrims marooned by floods

Tens of thousands of pilgrims who flocked to Polonnaruwa on Saturday to worship the historical Somawathiya Chaitiya were stranded by floods, the Disaster Management Centre said.

Air Force spokesman Group Captain Janka Nanayakkara said four persons including two women in critical condition due to dehydration had been air lifted from Somawathiya to Polonnaruwa Hospital.

Five SLAF helicopters operating from Number Seven Squadron in Hingurakgoda provided supplies including biscuits and drinking water.

Deputy Director of the DMC Pradeep Kodippili told The Island the Somawathiya sacred area was located on the bank of the Mahaweli Ganga and some areas of the river had spilled over on Friday night due to the torrential rains.

"There was a special pooja at the Somawathiya Chaitiya on Saturday and around 800,000 people attended it. However, they were marooned on their way back after the pooja," Kodippili said.

He said the DMC had already taken steps to rescue the pilgrims. "Now the water level is decreasing and people have started to vacate the area," he said.

The water level of the Lunugamvehera reservoir in the Hambantota District had also reached the spill level due to heavy rains and all sluice gates were opened by Sunday.

Meanwhile, Department of Meteorology said there could be more rains for the Southern and Western provinces yesterday.

Meteorologist Damayanthi Indiketihewage said there would be showers and thundershowers in the Western and Southern provinces and thundershowers would also develop at several places over the rest of the island during the afternoon or evening.

She said there might be temporary localized fairly strong winds during thundershowers.

There could be lightning too and the general public is requested to take precautions.

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