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Sri Lanka reconstructs after deadly floods and landslides

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[AMBALAKANDA] As Sri Lanka begins rehabilitation work after devastating floods and landslides in mid-May, that left more than a hundred dead and caused damages estimated at US$ 1.2—2 billion, the big question is where to house the survivors.

Sri Lanka Red Cross has sent out an appeal for over US$ 3 million for long-term reconstruction work over the next 18 months, covering essential household items; shelter, livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene, restoring family links, disaster-risk reduction and institutional disaster response.

“It will take time, it will be sometimes slow, but we have to get it right,” says disaster management minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa.

In this small town on the foothills of the central mountains, 31 were killed and 99 listed as missing, when a massive landslide hit the Egalpitiya area. The toll could go higher since three entire villages were wiped out.
“Over 100 houses have been lost, right now we still have people in 11 camps,” says M. Faizal, the top government official in the Aranayake division. He estimates that over 1,000 families would need to be relocated out of high-risk, landslide-prone areas. 

One issue facing the government and agencies like the Red Cross is finding suitable and safe land for relocation. Jagath Mahendra, who heads the disaster management centre in Kegallle district, says most temporary shelters are in schools and they cannot be kept closed indefinitely. “The problem is that we don’t have sufficient flat and safe land in the district.” One option is building high-rise flats, though this is a new concept in Sri Lanka

For the survivors, the biggest fear is that they will be forgotten and left to their own devices. “So far we have been well looked after, but we feel that we are not getting the attention we got a month back,” says Dammika Menika, who lost her husband in the landslide.

Menika has been living at the Ussapitiya Buddhist Temple with about 100 other survivors. “They want us to move to new locations, but what about our jobs, our children’s schooling?

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s South Asia desk.
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