Landslides: Govt. to take over estates that expose workers to danger

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The government had asked estate owners to take action to relocate their workers living in landslide prone terrain to safe areas but they had not heeded that directive, Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said yeterday. Unless they responded favourably, action would have to be taken to take over their properties to ensure workers’ safety, he warned.

A proposal to allocate state land certified by the National Building Research Organization (NBRO) as safe for people currently living in high risk landslide prone areas would be presented to the Cabinet shortly, Minister Amaraweera said.

According to the latest statistics issued by the Disaster Management Centre (DMC), only three bodies had been recovered so far and over 100 people were still reported missing from Wednesday’s catastrophic landslide at Haldamulla in Badulla District.

Around 1,067 people belonging to 320 families had been affected and the number of survivors was 183. About 66 houses and seven buildings had been completely destroyed, DMC stated.

Minister Amaraweera told The Island that the search operations were still underway though there was no hope of finding any survivors.

"As an immediate solution, currently we have evacuated people in high risk areas to safer places," he said.

"We have already asked the people living in landslide prone areas to move to safer places in keeping with an NBRO and conducted rehearsals for those people some time ago.

Around 75 children displaced by Haldamulla disaster would be handed over to the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) and given accommodation in children’s homes, the minister said, adding that they would not be placed in the care of their relatives.

Meanwhile. the DMC said that the water levels in Kelani Ganga, Kalu Ganga and the Attanagalu Oya had risen to the spill level and urged people living in the low lying areas close to those rivers to remain vigilant. Four spill gates of the Daduru Oya, and Castlereagh Reservoir had been opened due to rising water levels following incessant rains, the DMC said.

Bingiriya, Chillaw, Wariyapola and Nikaweratiya areas had been flooded after the opening of four spill gates of the Deduruoya reservoir yesterday morning and people in those areas had been warned, the DMC said.

The NBRO extended the prevailing landslide warning to Kegalle, Rathnapura, Matale, Kandy, Badulla, Nuwara Eliya and Kalutara Districts due to the prevailing bad weather conditions.

The Meteorology Department said that a low level disturbance had formed in the Bay of Bengal to the east of Sri Lanka and the system was likely to intensify further.

Under the influence of the system showery weather was expected to continue over most parts of the country particularly in the Northern, Eastern, Uva and North Central provinces, the Met Department said, noting the showers or thundershowers would occur at times in the Northern, Eastern, North Central, Uva and Southern provinces. Heavy rain fall of more than 100mm was also likely at some places.

There might be temporary localised strong winds during thundershowers. The public should take adequate precautions to minimise dangers caused by lightning, the Met Department said.

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