Floods caused by heavy rain in several areas of Sri Lanka have affected more than half a million people, and taken at least 20 lives. Torrential pre-monsoon rains were worsened by cyclone Laila, which formed in the Bay of Bengal.
The worst-hit districts are Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha in the west. Many other areas in the south, northwest, east, north-central and inland are also inundated. According to the disaster management ministry, nearly 180,000 people in Gampaha, 140,000 in Colombo and 91,000 in Kalutara are affected.
On Thursday, government officials declared an emergency situation in the Nuwara Eliya district of the central hills. Tea plantations and poor workers there face the threat of landslides.
Although cyclone Laila is moving away from the island, strong windy conditions will continue, leading to showers in the Western, Central, Sabaragamuwa and Southern Provinces, according to the Meteorological Department. Bus and train transport remains severely curtailed because of flooding.
Many parts of Colombo have been flooded, disturbing normal activities. Those most affected are poor shanty dwellers living in low-lying areas, on canal banks and along the Kelani River. More than half the capital’s population live in shanties—many are street hawkers or do odd jobs. In the Kalutara district, south of Colombo, farmers and workers in small plantations have been badly hit. Flood waters have cut off some villages.