Three die in stampede at Somawathiya
Three pilgrims, including one woman, who were stranded by floods at the Somawathiya Chaitiya, had died, the Disaster Management Centre said yesterday.
The Somawathiya sacred area is located on the banks of the Mahaweli Ganga and some areas of the river had spilled over on Friday night due to 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. There were 35,000 vehicles stranded at the site.
Five Sri Lanka Air Force helicopters, operating from Number Seven Squadron in Hingurakgoda, provided supplies including biscuits and drinking water to the marooned pilgrims and several pilgrims who were in critical condition due to dehydration were airlifted to hospital.
Assistant Director of the DMC, Pradeep Kodippili said that two pilgrims had died on Saturday and another one who was warded at the Colombo National Hospital died in the wee hours of yesterday.
He said there were 25 pilgrims warded at the Polonnaruwa and Colombo National Hospitals.
"However, all pilgrims managed to leave the area by yesterday as the water level decreased," Kodippili added that some pilgrims who had been left behind by their families too had been sent back home.
Eastern Security Forces Headquarters Commander Maj. Gen. Susil Udumalagala said the army had played a major role to evacuate the pilgrims from the flood affected area.
He said that the troops had provided dry rations to the stranded pilgrims while the army medical staff provided medicines.
"Our ambulances were placed on rescue missions and our medical team was able to provide first aid to those who were in critical condition due to dehydration until they were admitted to hospital," Maj. Gen. Udumalagala said.
He said that hundreds of vehicles had got stuck in the mud. The army had helped pull them out.
Polonnaruwa District Secretary Nimal Abesiri said 42 people had gone astray on their way back.
Ven. Ambanpola Gnawijaya thera, a member of the organizing committee of the pooja, said they expected around 200,000 pilgrims for the special pooja which was attended by Kiribathgoda Gnanananda thera but there had been over 800,000 people who participated in it.