Torrential rains displace 290,000 in Sri Lanka

[InKunming--Sister Cities]  Nearly 290,000 people have been displaced in the north central and eastern regions of Sri Lanka as torrential rains made dams overflow and hampered transport, an official said on Monday.

State-run Disaster Management Center (DMC) calculates 288,085 people belonging to 78,527 families have been affected while 22, 369 people from 6,537 families have been housed in shelters.

"The government has instructed the relevant authorities to take immediate measures to ensure relief for the families hit by the bad weather, " DMC spokesman Lal Kumara told reporters.

The eastern town of Batticaloa is the worst hit with an estimated 30,000 people having to move from their homes, he added.

Thousands more had to be evacuated by the military and navy officials, including from tourist hot spots such as Anuradhapura where ancient temple ruins are a popular attraction.

The towns of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the north central province are also home to some of Sri Lanka's largest rice cultivations with hundreds of dams scattered around the region to provide water in the usually arid region.

Lashed by heavy showers for days as many as 300 of these dams have reached spill level forcing sluice gates to be opened, threatening people living downriver.

"The safety of pilgrims and foreign visitors is being given priority. They have been evacuated from hotels near major tanks while pilgrims were removed from the sacred city," Anuradhapura District Secretary Mahinda Seneviratne told reporters.

Severe rain is expected to continue during the Christmas week, dampening relief efforts.

The floods have also hampered road and railway transport services. Saturday's trains carrying mail from Colombo to the east and north were canceled after tracks were submerged as several points, local media reported.

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