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Fifteen dead and 400,000 homeless in Sri Lanka floods

The number killed in Sri Lanka has climbed to 15, as torrential rain fell over many parts of the country for the fourth day in a row.

Eleven people were killed by flooding and four died in lightning strikes.

The monsoon weather has also forced more than 400,000 people from their homes, the Disaster Management Centre said today.

Sri Lanka’s Western Province, including the district surrounding the capital, Colombo, and Kalutara and Gampaha districts were the worst hit, said Pradeep Kodippily, deputy director of the Disaster Management Centre.

“It is a very tough situation for us. Some 15,865 families from Gampaha, 11,000 families from Colombo and 4,311 families from Kalutara were affected,” Kodippily said. He said three people in Divulapitiya, about 60 km north east of the capital, had died when they went out to play in the floods.

Daily life ground to a halt in the capital. Shanty towns were swamped while some schools and offices were closed because children and workers were left stranded. Mr Kodippily said about 80 per cent of roads in Colombo were submerged in three to four feet of water.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa held an emergency meeting and ordered the release of 18 million rupees (£119,000) for emergency relief, including prepared meals, with the promise of more to come. He added that the Navy had also been scrambled to help rescue people stranded.

Twenty nine camps have been set up to house the homeless from Divulapitiya, Attanagalle, Biyagama, Jaela, Dompe, Gampaha, Katana, Kelaniya, Mahara, Negombo and Minuwangoda areas in the Gampaha district while another 10 I camps have been set up in affected areas in the Western province, the Sri Lanka Guardian reported.

Sri Lanka’s Red Cross meanwhile, said it was helping people in Gampaha, Colombo and Kalutara. “We are giving them food rations - and catering to their basic and immediate needs,” a spokesman told the United Nations news service, IRIN.

"We have also deployed several boats in Gampaha where it is worst affected and conducted rescue operations," he said.

The Housing Development Authority has said it would help rebuild homes destroyed by the rains.

Sri Lanka's Meteorological Department has forecast severe rains over the next 48. The usual monsoon season officially starts tomorrow.

The chaos forced the government to cancel celebrations to mark the first anniversary of the army's victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil (LTTE), which had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland for longer than two decades.

Hayley attribution