South Asia

Sri Lanka flood victims vent fury

Victims of flooding in Sri Lanka have besieged a government office in the east of the country, accusing officials of holding back relief supplies.

Windows were smashed as more than 1,000 people surrounded the office in a village in eastern Batticaloa district.

Flood victims have told the BBC that some local politicians have been giving food and other aid to their supporters rather than the most needy.

Improvement in the weather has allowed many displaced to start returning home.

Forty people have lost their lives and four more are missing as a result of the disaster, according to official figures.

On Monday afternoon just over 50,000 people were listed as still living in camps.

Evicted

The BBC's Charles Haviland, who visited the worst affected areas in the east and northern-central part of the country at the weekend, says that many of those who fled to escape the floods in a hurry brought no belongings with them and will have lost a lot.

Families living in makeshift tents in Anuradhapura
The families in Anuradhapura say that they have been forcibly evicted (Photo: Athula Bandara)

In the protest in the eastern village of Ariyampathy, people said they were being denied their fair share of food rations and barricaded staff in the government office after finding aid inside that had not been distributed.

Rice, flour, tents and stoves were among the supplies for nearly 4,000 people that had not been handed out, according to the Associated Press news agency.

A local source told the BBC that many of them had already had their share and the demonstrators were being incited by a local politician.

Others flood victims complain that because their jobs are considered to be of relatively high status, they are not entitled to any rations at all.

There are accounts of local politicians seizing food aid and giving it to their supporters.

In some places, the rapid emptying of makeshift displacement camps has led to difficulties.

In the northern district of Anuradhapura about 20 families whose homes are still flooded wanted to stay on in the school where they have been living.

But they were evicted by the school authorities and are now in temporary shelters by the road.

UN visit

Our correspondent says there has been a big aid operation, but not all of it has gone smoothly.

Sri Lankan flood-affected children play for the camera at a relief camp in the eastern Sri Lankan town of Batticaloa on 14 January 2011
Many of the schools used as camps for displaced people are beginning to reopen to pupils

More than 300,000 were displaced by the floods at the peak of the disaster last week.

The floods deluged 11 of the country's 25 districts, ruining crops and killing livestock.

A top United Nations official will visit Sri Lanka on Wednesday to tour the worst affected areas.

Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg will launch an appeal for funds to help victims.

The UN's World Food Programme is giving out dry food rations to people still displaced as well as those going home.

The WFP is expected to shift emphasis this week to organising clean-ups and repairing damaged irrigation systems.

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