From: Reuters
Published December 18, 2007 04:41 AM

Floods displace more than 20,000 in east Sri Lanka

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Flooding displaced more than 20,000 people from their homes in eastern Sri Lanka as a depression over the Bay of Bengal increased monsoon rains, officials said on Tuesday.

Flooding and displacement are common in Sri Lanka, where a southern monsoon batters the island between May and September, and a northeastern monsoon runs from December to February.

The eastern district of Ampara, a largely flat agricultural area which was hard hit by the 2004 tsunami, has taken the brunt of this downpour, with neighboring Batticaloa also affected.

So far, 22,612 people have been displaced, said Ramya Siriwansa, deputy director of emergency operations at the National Disaster Management Centre.

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"They are not in camps, they are at relatives' and friends' houses."

Around 400 acres of paddy fields were damaged by flood waters up to two feet deep, although the level was receding, he added.

Some roads were blocked by landslides in Nuwara Eliya district in the central tea-growing hills, where 80 houses were damaged, he added.

The Meteorology Department forecast continued rainfall in coming days, but said it would not be heavy.

Flooding and drought are cyclical in Sri Lanka.

In January, around 60,000 people were displaced by flooding, with the southeastern district of Hambantota badly hit.

More than a dozen people were killed by landslides in the central hills at the time, hundreds of houses were damaged and thousands of people were stranded in makeshift welfare centers.

(Reporting by Simon Gardner; Editing by Grant McCool)

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