RELIEF and RECOVERY: Kolonnawa picks up the pieces after the floods | Daily News


RELIEF and RECOVERY: Kolonnawa picks up the pieces after the floods


The tree that crushed Mohamed Thanzil’s house seemed to have crushed his spirit too: Thanzil and his wife stood staring at what was left of their house in despair, unable to come to terms with the recent tragedy that befell them. Having lost even the few possessions they had to the recent floods, the couple, with their four young children now live in a tarpaulin tent on the bund in Harvard Wella.

“Everyone is returning home, except us,” Thanzil said. “A large tree has fallen right in front of our home. We have been cutting it the past two days.”

Along with Thanzil and his family on the bund in Harvard Wella, Salamulla, Kolonnawa, live 35 other families, in tents that house between 5-6 families each. They have been there the past ten days. “We are waiting for the waters to subside,” Thanzil said. “Food and other rations we get from people passing by.” The residents of Harvard Wella did not move far from their homes when the floods hit them on May 16; instead they put up tents atop the bund nearby.

“We did not move our belonging from our homes. Where would we have moved it to, anyway This is the only home we have,” thirty-two year old A.M. Azmi said.

She said she was using the bleach given by the Grama Sevaka to clean her house.Most of her belongings however, were ruined by the floods.

Fifty-six year old Nandani Hettiarachchi who lives two tents down from Azmi complained that government officials had not come to visit them:

“The officers from the Disaster Management Centre are on the other side. Their side was underwater for only one or two days. Ours was underwater for a week. We have not even received the bleach with which to clean our houses,”she said.

Health Risks

The residents of Harvard Wella are aware of the risks of living in unsanitary conditions but said government officials had not provided them with much needed disinfectants, after the flood waters receded.

“They said there might be the risk of rat fever, but we have not got cleaning supplies to prevent that. We cannot leave our homes to find disinfectant ourselves because our homes might be looted by thieves,” Samantha Wijesinghe, 42, said.

The Ministry of Health however insisted that their officers and Public Health Inspectors (PHI) were distributing as much disinfectants and drugs as needed to the people:

“If they have not yet received it, they must request for it from their PHI or Grama Sevaka,” Health Services Deputy Director General of Public Health, Dr. Sarath Amunugama said.

Dr. Amunugama also said that to avoid an outbreak of rat fever, Health Services officers were distributing doses of doxycycline to the people. He added that their offices had conducted many educational programmes to inform the people of the possible health risks at this time.

Private donors

The tents on the Harvard Wella bund are stocked with the basic supplies of food and water; donations from strangers. S.A. Riyanzi, a contractor from Dambadeniya, Kurunegala has been distributing dry rations to those affected from Aranayake to Kolonnawa: “We just got together in our own private capacity and collected these items. We have been traveling all over to give dry rations to people,” he said.

Officers from the Prisons Department were in the next camp, distributing as many as 200 lunch parcels: “We pooled in our own money for these packets,” a Prisons Department official said.

The Kolonnawa Jumma Masjid has also been involved, coordinating relief efforts in areas the government was not able to act on.

“Since April 16, we have been coordinating various programmes. We first started on a small-scale, making 500 food parcels for people from the mosque. Today we are supplying 8,500 parcels for just lunch alone. Then there were no boats to rescue the people, so we purchased some inflatable boats and hired some boats from fishermen in Negomobo and Beruwela. We are looking at long-term relief now,” I.Y.M. Hanif, President of the Kolonnawa Masjid Federation said.

A Relief Coordination Centre (RCC) that was set up to channel relief programmes around the country is looking into preparing flood-affected schoolchildren for school. When asked if they had any government assistance in their programmes, an officer representing the RCC said: “The government did their part and we did our part.”

Over 18,000 families were affected by the recent floods in Kolonnawa and were evacuated to safe locations in the area. The Civil Defence Force, (CDF) has been deployed to clean to public spaces, wells and roads in 38 grama sevaka divisions in Kolonnawa. With the CDF on the ground, cleaning operations are moving swiftly and all garbage is being piled into trucks going to the local garbage dump in Meethotamulla.


The residents who live around the controversial landfill site in Meethotamulla said they had flood water mixed with sewage inundating their homes:

“All this black water we are pushing out came from that dump behind us, ” thirty-six year old Premakumara Silva, who along with his wife Gothami, also thirty-six, were cleaning their home, said.

Around 53 families live around the landfill site and while some have bought bleach to disinfect their homes, they admit that the white power alone would not be sufficient to get rid of the black residue from the floods.

“I have a black rash on my feet. All of us do. We were soaked in sewage-infested water while wading through these waters to get our things,” fifty-two-year-old Siriyalatha said. No government official has visited the area, the residents claimed, and said they had received most of their food and medicine supplies from a monk at a temple nearby:

“The Grama Sevaka has not come here, nor has any politician. Our monk is better than any politician. Doctors who came to the temple gave us medicine,” Siriyalatha said.

Electric wiring

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has warned residents returning to their homes to have their service wires and metres checked before using electricity. CEB officials are to go to all affected houses to check if their connections are in sound condition.

Siriyalatha however complained that no CEB official had come to check on their trip switch, which had been under water. CEB Media Spokesman Sulakshana Jayawardena said: “We don’t have enough manpower in areas such as Angoda, Sedawatte and Kolonnawa, but we are getting additional people there.”

He added that while the CEB was responsible for checking if the service wires and metres were working properly, it was up to the consumer to ensure that their house wiring, main switch and trip switch are replaced, if they are not working properly:

“Our unions have volunteered to offer all affected people free technical assistance. If there is a problem, I ask that the people contact our CEB hotline or an area engineer,” Jayawardena said.

The Kolonnawa Disaster Management Centre was not available for comment, despite several attempts, nor were there any public officials present at any of the disaster sites for comment. 

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