More monsoon rain adds to Sri Lanka's agony

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The Independent Online

Unceasing monsoon rains have exacerbated the crisis facing more than a million people affected by Sri Lanka's deadly floods.

Aid agencies and the government are still battling to get supplies to large numbers of people cut off by rising waters in the east and centre of the country. So far at least 27 people have been killed. Aid groups warn that landslides are continuing and that many dams are set to burst.

As the rains continued after a brief lull, the government reported that more than 20 per cent of the country's rice crops had been destroyed, creating problems for Sri Lanka's longer-term food security.

"I would say the situation is pretty desperate," said Bob McKerrow, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in Sri Lanka. "The immediate situation is that there are still people in the highland areas who remain cut off. We are trying to reach them with helicopters and boats."

In the capital, Colombo, President Mahinda Rajapakse told reporters that officials were still assessing the full extend of the damage caused by the second of Sri Lanka's two annual monsoons. "We are not sparing any costs," the president said. "The relief operations are going ahead and I have told the officials to ensure that there are no delays in distributing aid."

Aid groups said the worst hit areas were in the Eastern Province, a part of the country where people have recently been returning to their homes after having been driven away by decades of civil war.