Sri Lankan will introduce laws to strictly enforce “buffer zones” in disaster-prone areas so that permission cannot be given for construction activities there, a top minister said today, as the death toll in the country’s worst flooding in over a decade rose to 224.
Disaster Management Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said 78 people were still missing as of yesterday after the country’s worst torrential rains since 2003 displaced nearly half-a-million people.
The Disaster Management Centre said over 600,000 people have been hit and nearly 25,000 were in temporary shelters after the landslides and floods triggered by monsoon rains.
The disaster hit the country’s 14 of the 25 districts.
Illegal construction has worsened the flooding by blocking drains and other natural water storage facilities.
Battling with the natural calamity, the government has decided to introduce strict laws to ensure that “buffer zones” are not violated in the future.
Sri Lanka introduced similar buffer zones following the catastrophic tsunami in 2004 in which over 30,000 people died.
Yapa said the buffer zones introduced then had been breached due to clearance for construction of buildings in those areas.
But, he said, the new laws will ensure permission are not given to construct buildings in the buffer zones now onwards, and added that the vulnerable areas will be evacuated soon.
He also said that disaster evacuation centres will be set up across Sri Lanka to provide relief to people in the event of a natural disaster. During the flooding and landslide last month, temples and schools were used as temporary shelters.
The minister said a national action plan was needed to ensure that human lives could be saved in a such disasters.
According to the minister, Sri Lanka has deployed nearly 10,000 troops and paramilitary forces to aid police personnel in search and rescue operations following the May 26 flooding.
“This is the biggest deployment of troops during peace time in Sri Lanka,” Yapa told reporters in Colombo.
After the flooding last month, India and several other nations had rushed aid to the island nation. India has sent three naval ships with relief materials and media aid to help in rescue efforts. (DNA)