Church implements disaster strategy after devastating floods

By Gavin Drake
Posted May 24, 2016

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of Ceylon has implemented its disaster management plan in response to devastating floods that have displaced around 225,000 people and seriously impacted a further 200,000 people. Heavy rains have resulted in the confirmed deaths of 92 people; and a significant number of injuries. Scores of people remain missing.

Almost 5,000 homes have been destroyed, some by landslides. In the Kegalle district, an entire village of 170 people has been obliterated. The country’s military report that they are engaged in search efforts in Aranayake where they believe around 135 people are buried.

The disaster began on 17 May when Tropical Cyclone Roanu made landfall in the southwest of the island. It continued to wreak havoc until 21 May when it exited eastwards, in the direction of Bangladesh. That, and the storms which followed, brought heavy rains and flooding affecting 22 of the Island’s 24 districts, including the northern and eastern suburbs of Colombo along the banks of the Kelani River.

Search and rescue efforts are being hampered by continuing south-western monsoon rains which are also preventing many from returning home.

“After a somewhat slow initial reaction, the government is now coping well with the relief work while the armed services are engaged in the search and rescue operations,” a spokesman for the Diocese of Colombo said. “A very strong spontaneous response by television and radio stations, social media, private companies, institutions and schools, as well as citizens has resulted in very large stocks of relief items being collected and dispatched to those affected.”

The Colombo diocese’s Board of Social Responsibility (BSR) has prepared for such events and its members have been trained in disaster management. They have now implemented their disaster plan. Parishes have donated relief items and these are being distributed according to needs in the Colombo, Gampaha, and Puttalam districts.

The BSR has also provided fuel for 30 boats which are being used for rescue and relief.

The Bishop of Colombo, the Rt Revd Dhiloraj Canagasabey, has issued an appeal for assistance. “The BSR has . . . started relief programs in a few areas with support of the clergy and government officials,” Bishop Canagasabey said. “Since the government and some non-governmental organizations are already engaged in a well-coordinated relief effort, the BSR primarily intends to engage in rehabilitation and livelihood support in selected areas once the affected persons return to their homes, while they will also supplement the relief work where needed.

“If you feel led to support the diocesan rehabilitation effort, please partner us by sending us your contribution. We appeal to you for your prayers and cooperation towards assisting the affected people of our nation at this time of suffering and need.”

The diocesan spokesman said that the BSR was planning “for the major effort of the Church to be concentrated on the recovery and rehabilitation stage. For this, trained assessment teams are being readied and once the locations of our interventions are identified and access made possible, they will begin their work.”

They intend to concentrate their efforts on cleaning and disinfecting houses and water wells; providing household items, cooking utensils, clothes, bedding and linen, school uniforms, books, stationary and footwear; and assisting with the building materials for the repair of houses. They will also provide livelihood assistance.

  • Click here to find out how you can support the Bishop of Colombo’s emergency appeal.