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Sri Lanka Monsoon Floods Kill 14 Triggered Widespread School Closures

Photo : Reuters

Flash floods, mudslides, and falling trees have killed at least 14 people in Sri Lanka as the island nation is battered by monsoon storms, the country's disaster centre said on Sunday.

Among the victims, some drowned, including three members of the same family who were swept away near the capital Colombo on Sunday. Others were buried alive in mudslides, including an 11-year-old girl and a 20-year-old man, the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) reported.

Nine more people were crushed to death by falling trees across seven districts since the monsoon intensified on May 21, according to the DMC.

While Sri Lanka relies on the seasonal monsoon rains for irrigation and hydroelectric power, experts have warned that the country faces more frequent floods as global temperatures rise due to climate change.

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The DMC stated that heavy rain has affected 20 out of the country's 25 districts, and it issued warnings to residents living near major rivers to move to higher ground. Flights arriving at Colombo's main international airport were diverted to a smaller airport, and key highways were flooded at several points.

In response to the severe weather, the government ordered all schools to remain closed on Monday following the weekend holiday, as more rain is expected. "There could be more heavy rains accompanied by strong winds and thunder," the DMC warned.

In addition to the human toll, the floods have also impacted wildlife. Last week, wildlife authorities discovered seven carcasses of young elephants who drowned in what is the largest single loss of the animals in five years. The flooding occurred in the elephant habitat in Dimbulagala, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of Colombo, triggered by the southwest monsoon.

The severe monsoon storms and their devastating effects highlight the increasing vulnerability of Sri Lanka to extreme weather events, prompting concerns and calls for improved disaster preparedness and climate resilience measures.

June 3, 2024 3:45 p.m. 472

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