Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sri Lanka Faces La Nina’s Wrath: Devastating Floods leave 21 dead, One million displaced

The troubles of Tamil population in East Sri Lanka appear never ending. The heaviest rain in 18 years flooded Sri Lanka left about 11 dead. Mudslides caused by heavy rains and floods in Sri Lanka have additionally killed another ten people.  These floods were especially bad news for people in the East, who in recent years have also endured a civil war and a tsunami.

The Disaster Management Center said more than millions have been affected by the rains, with 1 million becoming homeless. Mervyn Fletcher of the UN explains from Colombo: "That means they have either been forced from their homes or have seen their property flooded”. Floods have besides left marooning traffic and submerged the country's Parliament in four feet of water. Sri Lanka's president had to abandon a visit to areas hit by flooding. The flooding has reportedly swelled ponds and reservoirs to bursting, and the flow is wrecking rice paddies.

The government said the worst-affected areas include Batticaloa, Ampara, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa, Nuwara Eliya, Moneragala, Kandy, Badulla and Kegalle districts. The Eastern Province is the worst affected with over 860,000 flood victims according to the latest figures released by the Disaster Management Centre with many villages in Eastern Province inundated, with some cut off from supplies, including 9 villages in Muttur area of eastern Trincomalee district being isolated with only sea access. 

The Director General of Disaster Management Centre stated that Batticaloa District is worst hit by the floods with 533,000 people belonging to 30,264 families have been displaced. He said eight deaths have been reported from the district and 225 displaced camps have been set up in the district. Batticaloa District is experiencing a rainfall of 113mm/day continuously. Yesterday it had been 200mm.

More than 28,000 troops, backed by transport helicopters and navy boats, are rescuing flood victims and delivering food, authorities said. It is the biggest troops operation since the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels one-and-a-half years ago. State and private organizations were setting up centers in Colombo and its suburbs to collect relief items for affected victims. The displaced are being housed in hundreds of camps. They have crowded into 800 camps set up near schools.  But officials say that in some cases those camps in turn have been flooded – it is estimated that 25 out of 200 have been inundated in the coastal area of Batticaloa. The Sri Lankan government is reported to make arrangements to provide those displaced with cooked meals. Aircraft were ferrying cooked meals to the affected areas while navy boats were delivering them to the victims.

About 200 ponds and 404,163 acres of paddy land, used to grow rice, a staple for Sri Lankans, have been devastated by the floods.  According to a media report:

"North central and eastern part of Sri Lanka had destroyed over 404,163 acres of cultivated paddy lands, the government said today. A major portion of the paddy cultivation is in the dry zones of North Central Province and Eastern Province. Both regions are inundated with rain water as well as water from breached tanks and opened sluice gates of major tanks.

Following the end of war the government launched a major drive to cultivate the 100,000 acres of fallow paddy lands in the North. The floods have destroyed the paddy cultivation in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara and Kilinochchi districts. 

According to the Disaster Management Center (DMC) in Polonnaruwa district 12 sluice gates of Kaudulla tank, 10 gates of Parakrama Samudraya, 8 sluice gates of Minneriya Wewa have been opened. In Anuradhapura district the 2 sluice gates of Kala Wewa and 16 sluice gates of Rajanganaya tank have been opened to relive the water and the rains have breached the Tikkampatana dam.

In Eastern Province, Irrigation Department has sent a team to fix a leak in the Mavil Aru tank, the major reservoir in the Province. The people in the area have been ordered to evacuate, the officials said. According to irrigation officials 607 tanks and bunds have been completely damaged and 228 have been partially damaged due to the heavy rains."

President Rajapaksa warned his Cabinet Ministers that the country should brace itself for a food shortage. Mounting prices of vegetables have also sparked concern. For the first time in post-independent Sri Lanka, the military was manning vegetable-selling outlets. The vegetables were collected from production areas in army trucks. We now face a real threat of severe food shortages due to the complete destruction of over 130,000 acres of paddy field. Agriculture Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardhana stated the following to the Daily Mirror:

“There is no doubt that we need an advanced strategy to face the food crisis that is inevitable. We can have a better picture only after the flood waters have fully receded. Therefore, we cannot say what kind of response we have to the crisis right now. What I can assure is that the government is going to face this with resolve and people must be prepared to it.”

India will be sending tomorrow 25 metric tons of relief material, including food, drinking water, water purifying tablets, sleeping mats, blankets, and bed sheets on an Indian Air Force transport aircraft, IL76 in two sorties. Food items to be sent will include ready-to-eat meals, sugar, pulses, milk powder, baby milk formula, salt and other essential seasoning powders.

Tens of thousands of people are in need of food and medical supplies and stocks are quickly running out. Two youth were electrocuted when they climbed a tree to avoid raging flood waters in a village of Ariyampathu, south of the eastern capital of Batticaloa. A BBC report quoted people in some remote areas as saying they have not received any aid from agencies or the government and some of the affected people in makeshift camps were going without food.

The Sri Lankan government however claims that they have deployed naval forces to transport cooked meals to areas where roads are submerged under water. Submerged roads are proving the main obstacle in getting food to affected people. Major General Hettiarachchi admitted in Batticaloa District, air force helicopters had been deployed to distribute relief and to rescue the affected people but they could not be taken off the ground due to bad weather yesterday as well.

The Sri Lankan government has also appealed to the public to donate items including drinking water, mattresses, bed sheets and dry rations. Sewage lines and tanks have overflowed in many villages and authorities are concerned about diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea.  A BBC blog gives excellent clues on the challenges facing the humanitarian response:
"Access to clean water is becoming a major problem and we and other agencies are distributing purification tablets." The UN says that crocodiles and snakes are a threat to anyone wading through the flood waters. Mr Fletcher said that the floods were especially bad news for people in the east, who in recent years have also endured a civil war and a tsunami. Food shortages The floods have left some stretches of railway line under nearly a metre of water.

Officials in Ampara say the rainfall there since Saturday has been the highest ever recorded in such a short time. Flood victims in Sri Lanka Over a million people have seen their homes flooded There is a shortage of food for children," a member of Sri Lanka's minority Muslim community in Ampara told Tamil on Wednesday. "In the morning we were forced to divide a single breakfast food parcel into four and give it to our four children.  We have not got any help from the government. But the local people – especially the rich – have come forward and helped us. We are only getting something to eat because of their generosity.

A number of big reservoirs have burst their banks, destroying paddy fields in a major rice-growing area. People in some remote areas on Wednesday told the they had seen no sign of aid agencies or government relief, and that some people in makeshift camps had been missing out on meals.

People in Batticaloa district told the Tamil service on Wednesday that they had done their best to stay in their villages, but had been forced to flee in the end. The air force has helped evacuate people and drop food supplies to some cut-off communities. The government has made an emergency appeal for ordinary people's help in sending dry rations, mattresses and bottled water. Deputy Disaster Management Minister Duleep Wijesekara said on Wednesday that some places, such as Muttur, had been difficult to reach. "I boarded a high-speed navy boat to get there to Muttur, but due to the huge waves we had to turn back after sailing for about 15km. After that we had to send food in by air," he said. The floods bring a risk of disease, including the mosquito-borne dengue fever, which even in normal times is a severe problem in the country"  

Google has provided a map (above) that identifies the main flood-affected regions, sites where relief and rescue operations have been conducted, areas prone to landslides and specific locations that are at risk.  Please click on the link below the map to view it on a larger screen. Read more here for updates and to click on individual markers for detailed information or  zoom in to view the location of specific shelter camps located in the east.

Sri Lanka Faces La Nina’s Wrath

The Sri Lankan Met Dept indicated the magnitude of the rainfall: 
"The Batticaloa District has received a rainfall of 1606.2 mm just in 42 days during the period from 1st December 2010 to 12th January 2011, almost equal to its total annual rainfall. The total rainfall experienced in Batticaloa from January 1st to 12th of this month is 894.8 mm. The annual total rainfall of the district was 1650.9 mm.

Similarly at Trincomalee a rainfall of 1030.6 mm. has been received during the same period while its annual rainfall was 1580.1 mm." 
With nightmarish floods in Queensland, Australia and now in Sri Lanka, global warmists can be only expected to flog the dead horse “climate change”. One media report goes as so:

“Climate change has likely intensified the monsoon rains that have triggered record floods in Australia’s Queensland state, scientists said on Wednesday, with several months of heavy rain and storms still to come.”
So let’s assume that it was that awful CO2 in the atmosphere that led to global warming that caused the Queensland floods this year. But how would these global warmist characters explain similar floods in the 19th Century in Queensland, at the start of industrialization when CO2 levels were a fraction of what it is today? 

1841 - 17th January: Highest flood on record occurred at Brisbane and Ipswich.
1844 - 10th January: Heavy floods at Ipswich.
1845 - 17th December: Flood at Ipswich.
1852 - 11th April: Heavy floods at Brisbane and Ipswich.
1857 - 19th and 20th May: Great floods at Ipswich and Brisbane; river at Ipswich rose 45 feet, and at Brisbane 12 feet. 

All these 19th century floods were double the depth of the current Queensland floods, when there were no SUVs whom global warmists blame for all weather extremes we face today. More importantly, all these flood years were La Nina years, just as it is this year (2010-2011).

So is it a coincidence? As our archive posts indicate, we do not consider such floods a mere coincidence but a manifest of La Nina, particularly a strong one. As illustrated in the graph given above (reproduced from one of our archives - Strong La Nina: Bundle up, Monster Winter Ahead! October 7, 2010); the areas coloured in blue that includes Sri Lanka and Australia are those vulnerable to flooding during a La Nina.

So what’s a La Nina? It’s the climatic and natural phenomenon where the central pacific ocean cools, accompanied by an increase of natural disasters globally. At the time we wrote our archive post Disasters to Surge as La Nina Returns” with dateline July 17 2010, we assumed a moderate to strong La Nina that was in the offing as the phenomenon was still its early development stages. Since then with Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) touching27 (see graph below), the current La Nina is proving to be a monster and likely to be the strongest on record, though this could be only confirmed only after the event ceases. 

[Sustained positive values of the SOI above +8 may indicate a La Niña event, while sustained negative values below −8 may indicate an El Niño event. Values of between about +8 and −8 generally indicate neutral conditions.] 
Most computer models initially forecasted the La Nina to peak sometime Oct-Dec last year. Now nearly all models indicate that La Niña (Niño-3.4 SST anomalies -0.5˚C or less) will persist at least into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2011. But the Japan Meteorological Agency (JPA) forecasts possible strengthening is expected till Northern hemisphere winter this year and its effects will linger on into the first quarter of 2012.  This blog has been using the JPA forecast as an assumption in all our previous La Nina related posts.

The monster intensity and extended duration of the current La Nina accordingly explains the Queensland and Sri Lankan floods. The island's two main monsoon seasons run from May to September and December to February. La Nina tends to accentuate the monsoons. It’s eastern city of Batticaloa was pounded by repeated cloudbursts that left more than 28 inches, or 72 cm, of rain within four days as of Wednesday. Alone, more than one foot of rain fell with 24 hours at the end of last week. According to Accuweather:
“January normally marks the tail end of the rainy season in eastern Sri Lanka, where normal monthly rainfall is upwards of one foot, or 30 cm. However, these outbursts were abnormal in their intensity and persistence... The area will be prone to further flooding downpours through the end of the week.”
Meanwhile Colombo Page reported that meteorologists have forecasted more heavy rains and strong winds in the already ravaged eastern, north central and central provinces. Some of those areas also were placed under landslide warnings. The Sri Lankan Met Office also confirmed their opinion of the cause of the floods:
"Stating that the current bad weather is a result of Sri Lanka being affected by the La Nina phenomenon that had hit the entire globe, the Department of Meteorology warned that the country should be prepared to face any weather condition in the future.
Department of Meteorology Director General P. B. Samarasinghe told at a news conference as the amount of rains which the country is "experiencing have increased by 100 percent."

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