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Cablegate: Ofda Assessment: Floods and Landslides In

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

291116Z May 03

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000914

SIPDIS


STATE FOR AID/BHR/OFDA FOR RTHAYER
MANILA FOR OFDA DOLAN
BANGKOK FOR OFDA ROGERS
DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/PIMBS, CA/OCS/ACS/EAP
GENEVA PLEASE PASS TO OCHA AND IFRC
CINCPAC FOR POLAD
ROME PASS TO FODAG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL CE
SUBJECT: OFDA ASSESSMENT: FLOODS AND LANDSLIDES IN
SOUTHWESTERN SRI LANKA

REF: (A) COLOMBO 00826, (B) STATE 133388, (C) STATE 206910

(OFDA 2003 GUIDANCE CABLE), (D) STATE 268806 (SUPPLEMENT TO
OFDA 2003 GUIDANCE CABLE)

1. SUMMARY: USAID/OFDA ASIA REGIONAL ADVISOR TRAVELED TO
SRI LANKA FROM MAY 21-25 TO ASSIST THE MISSION WITH
RESPONSE TO THE FLOOD DISASTER. SHE TRAVELED WITH
USAID/SRI LANKA MISSION DISASTER RELIEF OFFICER (MDRO) TO
THE WORST HIT DISTRICTS IN SOUTHWESTERN SRI LANKA. WHILE
THE FLOODWATERS HAVE RECEDED IN MANY OF THE AREAS AT
HIGHER ELEVATIONS, WATER LEVELS REMAIN HIGH OR HAVE RISEN
IN SOME OF THE LOW LYING AREAS. AS ROAD ACCESS TO MOST
AREAS IMPROVES, FOOD AND OTHER RELIEF ITEMS ARE BEING
DISTRIBUTED TO AFFECTED FAMILIES. CROP DAMAGE AS A RESULT
OF THE FLOODS MAY RESULT IN A MID-TERM SHORTFALL IN
FOODSTOCKS, PARTICULARLY FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE
POPULATIONS. PROVISION OF CLEAN WATER IS THE HIGHEST
PRIORITY NEED AT THIS TIME. OFDA REGIONAL ADVISOR
RECOMMENDS OFDA/WASHINGTON CONSIDER PROVIDING ADDITIONAL
FUNDS FOR EMERGENCY RESPONSE TO THE FLOODS, FOCUSING ON
THE WATER AND SANITATION SECTOR, PENDING RECEIPT AND
APPROVAL OF FORTHCOMING PROPOSAL. END SUMMARY.

2. BACKGROUND: PER REF A, HEAVY RAINS HAVE AFFECTED THE
WESTERN, SOUTHERN AND SABARAGAMUWA PROVINCES OF SRI LANKA
RESULTING IN FLOODING AND LANDSLIDES IN KALUTARA,
RATNAPURA, GALLE AND MATARA DISTRICTS. THE UNUSUALLY
HEAVY RAINS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH THE SEASONAL MONSOON;
HOWEVER, THE SITUATION HAS BEEN EXACERBATED BY CYCLONIC
ACTIVITY IN THE BAY OF BENGAL.

3. USAID/OFDA ASIA REGIONAL ADVISOR MARIZA ROGERS TRAVELED
TO COLOMBO MAY 21-25, 2003 TO ASSIST THE USAID MISSION
WITH THE FLOOD AND LANDSLIDE DISASTER IN THE SOUTHWESTERN
REGION OF SRI LANKA. SHE WAS JOINED BY USAID/SRI LANKA
MDRO JESSICA DAVEY FOR COORDINATION MEETINGS IN COLOMBO
AND ASSESSMENTS IN THE DISTRICTS OF RATNAPURA, GALLE,
MATARA AND KALUTARA IN THREE SOUTHWESTERN PROVINCES OF SRI
LANKA.

4. CURRENT SITUATION: THE GOVERNMENT OF SRI LANKA (GSL)
CRISIS MANAGEMENT CENTER WITHIN THE PRIME MINISTER'S
OFFICE HAS BEEN COLLECTING AND UPDATING THE FIGURES
CONCERNING THIS DISASTER FROM POLICE REPORTS, RELIEF
WORKERS AND THE GOVERNMENT AGENTS IN THE AFFECTED
DISTRICTS. AS OF MAY 27, 2003, THE GSL REPORTS: 151,141
FAMILIES HAVE BEEN AFFECTED; 250 DEATHS HAVE BEEN
CONFIRMED; 24,365 HOUSES HAVE BEEN DESTROYED AND 22,073
HOMES HAVE BEEN PARTIALLY DAMAGED. WHILE FLOOD WATERS
REMAIN STANDING IN SOME DISTRICTS, ROAD ACCESS AND THE
REQUIRED ROAD CLEARANCE CONTINUE TO BE THE GREATEST
OBSTACLES TO DISTRIBUTION OF RELEIF IN THOSE AREAS. THE
METEOROLOGY DEPARTMENT HAS FORECAST MORE RAIN IN THE
AFFECTED AREAS AS PART OF THE SEASONAL MONSOON.
METEROLOGISTS ARE MONITORING THE EXISTING CONDITIONS,
FAVOURABLE FOR CYCLONES IN THE BAY OF BENGAL.

5. RESPONSE TO DATE: PER REF B, THE USG PROVIDED
IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE THROUGH THE SRI LANKA RED CROSS WITH
A GRANT OF US$50,000 FOR RELIEF SUPPLIES FOR APPROXIMATELY
10,000 PEOPLE. THE SUPPLIES WILL BE PROVIDED TO FAMILIES
WHOSE HOMES HAVE BEEN DESTROYED, OR THOSE WHO LOST MOST OF
THEIR HOUSEHOLD BELONGINGS AS A RESULT OF THE FLOOD. THE
RELIEF ITEMS INCLUDE BED SHEETS, COOKING SETS, SLEEPING
MATS, LANTERNS, BUCKETS, SOAP, AND BOTTLED WATER. THESE
LOCALLY PROCURED ITEMS ARE CURRENTLY BEING PACKAGED AS
KITS BY RED CROSS VOLUNTEERS, AND WILL BE DISTRIBUTED TO
THE AFFECTED FAMILIES SHORTLY. IN ADDITION, PART OF THE
FUNDS WILL SUPPORT THE CLEANING AND REPAIR OF 100 WATER
WELLS IN THE AFFECTED AREAS.

6. AS OF MAY 26, 2003, DONOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE RELIEF
EFFORTS AMOUNT TO MORE THAN US$ 2 MILLION ACCORDING TO
RELIEFWEB (WWW.RELIEFWEB.ORG). DONOR COUNTRIES INCLUDE
JAPAN, NORWAY, AUSTRALIA, THE EUROPEAN UNION, CANADA,
INDIA AND SWEDEN.

7. RELIEF COORDINATION: THE LEAD MINISTRY FOR COORDINATION
OF DISASTER RESPONSE AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL IS THE MINISTRY
OF POWER AND ENERGY; AT THE DISTRICT LEVEL, THE MINISTRY
OF SOCIAL WELFARE HAS ASSUMED RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE
RESPONSE. AN OPERATIONS CENTER HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED
WITHIN THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE, WHERE INFORMATION ON
CASUALTIES, DAMAGES AND NEEDS ARE BEING COLLECTED. THE UN
AGENCIES INVOLVED IN THE RESPONSE INCLUDE U.N. HIGH
COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES (UNHCR), WORLD FOOD PROGRAM
(WFP), UNICEF, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO), AND UN
DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM (UNDP). THE UN OFFICE FOR
COORDINATION OF HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE (OCHA) HAS FIELDED
ASSESSMENT TEAMS AND ALSO PROVIDED UN VOLUNTEERS TO ASSIST
WITH COORDINATION OF RELIEF ACTIVITIES AT THE DISTRICT
LEVEL. CURRENTLY, THERE ARE NO INTERNATIONAL NGOS WORKING
IN THE AFFECTED AREAS, AND ONLY A FEW LOCAL COMMUNITY-
BASED ORGANIZATIONS ARE OPERATIONAL.

8. RATNAPURA DISTRICT ASSESSMENT: ON MAY 23, THE TEAM
VISITED RATNAPURA DISTRICT AND OBSERVED VARYING DEGREES OF
RECOVERY; WITHIN RATNAPURA TOWN THE ELECTRICITY HAD BEEN
RESTORED, AND FAMILIES WERE SHOVELING THE MUD AND DEBRIS
FROM THEIR HOMES; CLOTHES, FURNITURE AND SCHOOL BOOKS WERE
LAID OUT TO DRY ALONGSIDE THE ROADS. HOWEVER, BEYOND THE
MUNICIPALITY LIMITS, ROAD CLEARANCE AND REPAIR WAS
CONTINUING; MORE HOMES WERE PARTIALLY DAMAGED OR
DESTROYED, AND MANY PADDY FIELDS WERE WASHED AWAY. THE
TEAM ATTEMPTED TO REACH A VILLAGE WHERE LOCALS REPORTED
THAT 40 OUT OF 75 FAMILIES WERE BURIED BY A LANDSLIDE.
HOWEVER, THE ROAD WAS TOO HEAVILY DAMAGED AND THE VILLAGE
COULD ONLY BE ACCESSED ON FOOT - ANOTHER 5 KILOMETERS
WALK. ACCORDING TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, LIMITED
RELIEF SUPPLIES FOR THE VILLAGERS HAD BEEN AIRDROPPED BY
MILITARY HELICOPTERS. THERE WERE MANY REPORTS OF SUCH
ISOLATED AREAS AND SITUATIONS ALL OVER THE DISTRICT.

9. KALUTARA AND GALLE DISTRICTS ASSESMENT: ON MAY 23 AND
24, THE TEAM VISITED KALUTARA AND GALLE DISTRICTS, AND
OBSERVED A SIMILAR RETURN TO NORMALCY IN THE LARGER TOWNS.
HOWEVER, THE TEAM NOTED THAT STANDING WATER AND RESIDUAL
MUD REMAINED IN MORE AREAS OF THESE DISTRICTS. WHILE FLOOD
WATERS IN THE HILL AREAS HAVE MOSTLY RECEDED, THE WATER
LEVELS IN THE LOWER LYING AREAS HAVE RISEN. THE EXISTING
BUNDS IN THESE DISTRICTS HAVE BUFFERED SOME HOMES FROM THE
EFFECTS OF THE FLOOD, BUT APPEAR TO HAVE WORSENED THE
IMPACT IN OTHER AREAS. IN EACH OF THE DISTRICTS, THE TEAM
SPOKE WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE SRI LANKA RED CROSS,
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENTS, AND THOSE DISPLACED FAMILIES, NOW
EVACUATED TO SCHOOLS, TEMPLES AND PUBLIC BUILDINGS.

10. NEEDS: ACCORDING TO THE UN, THE RED CROSS AND
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, FOOD IS NOT AN URGENT REQUIREMENT AT
THIS TIME. IN ADDITION TO PREPARED FOOD AND DRY RATIONS
PROVIDED BY THE GOVERNMENT, PRIVATE SECTOR BUSINESSES, AND
THE GENERAL PUBLIC, WFP HAS DIVERTED SOME OF ITS
FOODSTOCKS TO THE FLOOD-AFFECTED AREAS. FLOOD-RELATED
CROP DAMAGE MAY RESULT IN SOME MID-TERM SHORTFALL IN
FOODSTOCKS, PARTICULARLY FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE
POPULATIONS; THE FOOD SECURITY SITUATION MAY REQUIRE
MONITORING. NON-FOOD RELIEF ITEMS ARE BEING PROVIDED
THROUGH GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE SECTOR DONATIONS, WHILE THE
UN HAS PROVIDED ITEMS FROM ITS OWN STOCKPILE.

11. PROVISION OF CLEAN WATER IS THE HIGHEST PRIORITY AT
THIS TIME. MOST OF THE INDIVIDUAL AND COMMUNAL WELLS
REMAIN FLOODED. IN THE AREAS WHERE THE WATER HAS RECEDED,
THE WELLS HAVE SUSTAINED STRUCTURAL DAMAGE, AND THE WATER
IS CONTAMINATED BY SEDIMENT AND DEBRIS. DRINKING WATER IS
BEING DELIVERED BY LORRY AND TRACTOR MOUNTED BOWSERS TO
AREAS ALONG AND NEAR THE MAJOR ROADS; OUTLYING AREAS ARE
DEPENDENT UPON DISTRIBUTION OF BOTTLED WATER. WHILE THERE
IS CONCERN ABOUT WATER-BORNE DISEASES, THERE ARE NO
CONCLUSIVE REPORTS OF INCREASED INCIDENCE.

12. RECOMMENDATION: THE EMERGENCY PROVISION OF CLEAN WATER
IS NEEDED TO PROTECT THE HEALTH STATUS OF PEOPLE IN THE
FLOOD-AFFECTED AREAS. OFDA REGIONAL ADVISOR RECOMMENDS
THAT OFDA/WASHINGTON CONSIDER PROVIDING ADDITIONAL FUNDS
FOR EMERGENCY RESPONSE TO THE FLOODS, FOCUSING ON THE
WATER AND SANITATION SECTOR, PENDING RECEIPT AND APPROVAL
OF FORTHCOMING PROPOSAL.

WILLS

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