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Sri Lanka battles floods disease threat

Health workers in Sri Lanka are battling to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases following floods which have killed at least 23 people.

Pregnant women and young children are being taken to hospital to shield them from diseases in districts where sewage has flooded into the streets, a health official said today.

Days of heavy rain have triggered widespread floods and mudslides, mainly in the island's Eastern Province. Five more deaths were reported today, bringing the toll to 23, said Pradeep Kodippili of the Disaster Management Centre said.

One person is reported missing and 36 others injured.

Amid the floods, sewage pipes and tanks have overflowed in many villages, and Health Ministry spokesman Dharma Wanninayake said officials are concerned about diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea.

Doctors have been asked to move to hospital women who are nearly nine months pregnant and children under five years old.

The measure will help slow infection rates and allow the most vulnerable to be treated quickly, he said.

More than a million people have been affected by the rains, and 325,000 have been forced from their homes. Many villages in Eastern Province have been inundated, with some cut off from supplies.

Nine villages in the eastern Trincomalee district are isolated with only sea access. Food and medical supplies were reported to be running low with tens of thousands of people in need.

Special teams of doctors and health inspectors have been dispatched to work in camps housing the displaced people and mobile clinics set up.

The government has deployed 28,000 forces and police personnel with boats and helicopters to help with rescue and relief.