PM says: Focus on flood victims’ medical needs first | Sunday Observer

PM says: Focus on flood victims’ medical needs first

With rising water levels in several parts of the island submerging entry/ exit points to the highway motorists are advised to use alternative routes.

According to the Chairman of the Road Development Authority, Nihal Suriyarachchi, entry exit points at 31 Km post in Panadura, Dodangoda, Welipenna, Biyagama, Kokmaduwa have been completely inundated.

The water levels have reached the height of the highway only at Dodangoda 32/1 km post.

Minister of Health and Indigenous medicine and Cabinet spokesperson urged motorist to inquire of the status by calling 1969 hotline, before using the highway.

He made these comments at a press briefing held at the Disaster Management Centre held last evening. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday directed all Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Members of Parliament to remain in their respective electorates and attend to the needs of the people during this period of natural calamity.

However, Prime Minister qualified his statement saying that Acting Minister Dunesh Gankanda was an exception since he had to coordinate work at the Disaster Management Centre.

He made these remarks at a meeting at Temple Trees yesterday, between the several agencies related to addressing this national disaster and representations from three forces and Police,

“Speaking on the relief measures that were underway, he said that the three forces and police will carry out their relief work under the guidance of the chief of staff.

We will need doctors and other medical staff attached to the forces to be deployed to these areas. The main focus should be on attending to immediate medical needs as well as taking steps to prevent the outbreak of diseases,” the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister further said that more than material aid was needed. We need aid to build infrastructure that has been destroyed during the floods and landslides.

It has been identified that the foreign aid that we need will be

long-term, mostly to revive infrastructure.

Roads, bridges and other infrastructure and houses that have been destroyed due to the severe weather have not yet been properly estimated.

A UN official based in Colombo speaking to Sunday Observer confirmed that Government of Sri Lanka had requested for relief and that they are currently working with the Disaster Management Center to outline coordination, mapping and identifying the assistance that is needed.

It’s important, the Prime Minister stressed, to keep the economy moving and requested all banks, state and commercial, to operate in the flood-hit areas and to recharge their ATM machines to facilitate the needs of the people.

“At least by mid June the economy should be up and running. We seek the support of the private sector in reaching this goal,” the premier added. The Prime Minister also said that it is visible that there is an alarming communication gap among the relevant agencies and called for better coordination. Referring to the Kukule ganga rising to flood level and beyond, he said, the agency concerned had not been able to communicate this information to take necessary precautions.

Speaking further, the Prime Minister questioned as to why warnings were not released at least to the relevant local government agencies that could have at least curtail the disaster.

“When I studied the statistics relating to the rainfall during the last few days Kukule ganga had a highest rainfall of 500 odd millimeters.

Had the relevant authorities communicated this information at least when the rainfall reached 150 millimeters, we could have taken precautionary steps before it was too late,” the Premier observed.

While stating that installing equipment to read rainfall in more areas is not a difficult task he stressed the importance of released statistics and other information at six hourly or three hourly intervals and making it available through media and other outlets.

“The worst hit area is Kukuleganga to Niyagama, had the information was released prior we could have been able to avert the disaster.”

Minister of Law and Order and Southern Development, who presided at the meeting, admitted that the practical issue the government agencies face at present, is not being able to communicate and coordinate the relief measures.

In response, acting minister of Disaster Management, Dunesh Gankanda suggested that all agencies and units that are working on relief to be coordinated and advised via the Disaster Management Center (DMC).

According to the last report issued by the DMC, the death toll due to floods and landslides was at 122 while 98 were reported missing and over 400,000 affected.