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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 May, 2003, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Tamil Tigers join flood effort
Flood victims
Flood victims walk to safety
Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels are donating aid to flood victims in the south in what one state newspaper has called an unprecedented gesture of goodwill.

More than 250 people are now known to have died with at least 200,000 families displaced in the country's worst floods in 50 years.

The government says it is still having trouble finding ways to get drinking water and food to those in cut-off areas.

Indian military personnel are working alongside the Sri Lankan armed forces to help the stranded.

'A first step'

The Tamil Tigers, who have been fighting Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese people for two decades, are reported to have organised 10 lorry loads of rice to be sent to the southern areas affected by the floods.

"In an unprecedented gesture signifying goodwill and reconciliation, the [Tigers] have come forward to organise flood relief," Sri Lanka's state-run Daily News reported on Wednesday.

We have never experienced a calamity of this nature
Karu Jayasuriya
Flood relief co-ordinator

The Tigers have also launched an appeal in the northern Wanni area, which they control, the AFP news agency reports.

"We have asked people in the Wanni to come forward and help the people [in the south] during this emergency situation," Tigers spokesman Daya Master said.

"This is only a first step. There could be more depending on the requirement."

The rebels signed a cease-fire in February 2002 which ended the fighting but tensions recently rose again when they withdrew from peace talks.

The head of the government's relief effort, Karu Jayasuriya, made a renewed appeal for aid on Wednesday.

"People have lost everything, even their clothes... send us whatever you can," Mr Jayasuriya, a government minister said.

"In our land, the trail of devastation is unseen in this century."

Trail of destruction

On Tuesday it became clear that flood waters had begun to recede in the worst affected district, Ratnapura, leaving a huge trail of destruction.

But further south, large areas are still under water.

Flood victims
People are trying to salvage whatever they can
The government is worried about the spread of diseases.

The airforce is continuing to drop food and fresh water to remote areas. Indian navy divers have been searching for bodies.

Many victims have lost their homes and their crops as well.

Roads and bridges have been swept away, trees uprooted, and power cables destroyed.

Power has been switched off in Ratnapura to stop people being electrocuted, one e-mail to BBC News Online said.

A government statement said police were searching for more boats to transport water and food to the flood victims, the AFP news agency reports.

Rescue workers are trying to move villagers to relief camps set up on dry land.

Other aid

Norway, the UK, Australia and the US have already pledged money to the relief effort.

The European Union has sent a team "to assess the immediate needs of the population".

Norway: $1m
UK: $365,000
Australia: $65,000
US: $50,000

Norway has given Sri Lanka $1m and Indian sent a ship carrying inflatable boats and rescue equipment.

It is thought landslides may have blocked one of the rivers in the area, exacerbating severe flooding in Ratnapura.

One survivor, Ranjith Gamini, said he was walking home from a Buddhist temple when he felt things "moving beneath his feet".

"After few seconds I realised that something was very wrong," he told AP.

"I was sinking and sinking, covered with mud and silt."

He was eventually found by rescuers and taken to hospital.

Are you in Sri Lanka? Are the floods in your area? E-mail us with your experiences using the form below and we will publish a selection of your comments here.

I was down in the area last Saturday and left just before it all came down. Was informed that in Ratnapura, there is game park with crocodiles; if true there must be danger of an expanded feeding ground for them. Also local snakes will be competing for dry land. Journey from Galle to Colombo was unpleasant for the first 40 kilometres as the rain was coming down like a sheet and the coastal road was a bit hairy.
Dave Carnegie, UK

I initially thought that the drizzle was a timely bliss, but as the darkness appeared it turned to a continuous rain. The rain was just pouring throughout the day for more than four days. The wind was so stubborn, that the rain comes horizontally. That kept me awake many nights with fear of falling coconut trees onto our roof.
Kithsiri Jayakody, Sri Lanka

I talked to my aunt in Ratnapura over the phone. She said telephones are the only service that functions normally. According to her there is no electricity since the power supply has been cut off to prevent people from getting electrocuted. The whole town is underwater and getting food is a grave concern for the people in Ratnapura area.

If the floodwater does not subside soon and the relief does not get to them quickly many people in Ratnapura face starvation. If there is anything that anyone can do to help the people affected by floods in Sri Lanka, please do so ASAP.
Sebastian Alexander, Toronto, Canada

Now the rain has stopped but the flood in the southern districts of Galle, Matara and Kaluthara is more threatening. One village in the Rathanapura was completely destroyed due to a landslide and about 74 houses were buried under the thick mud layer of 30 feet deep. On Monday there reported another land slide in Matara district, killing about 35 people. People have contributed largely to this problem by neglecting the natural environment.
Kamal, Sri Lanka

The forest cover that was cleared by the colonial rulers in the 19th and early 20th century to make way for tea plantations is the root cause for the mudslides that plague this region of the country. In addition to that, there is too much illegal mining (for precious stones) that takes place in that part of the country, which gets "un-noticed" for reasons we are too familiar with. Think it's time someone took action to help solve the problem of flash floods once and for all.
Sanjaya B, Sri Lanka/US

The rains have been horrendous. We have had very big storms for over a week. We are told the water in a friend's house in Matara was last evening ten feet high and eighteen feet was expected. Rumours of twenty eight feet of water are in Tangalla. Our electricity has been fitful but the authorities are doing the best they can under the circumstances.
Hazel and Graham Gallagher, Sri Lanka

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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all emails will be published.

In pictures: Sri Lanka floods
19 May 03  |  Photo Gallery
Country profile: Sri Lanka
10 May 03  |  Country profiles

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