UN to call for aid to help Sri Lanka flood victims

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The United Nations said it will launch an emergency appeal for funds to help victims of floods that have ravaged eastern Sri Lanka for days, as the death toll rose to 32 today.

With vast rice fields that were ready for harvesting inundated, many in the region have had their livelihoods disrupted. UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Neil Buhne said in a statement late yesterday that the world body will call for millions of dollars in aid to help replant the fields and compensate those who have lost money due to the floods.

"I urge donors to generously support priority needs such as mosquito nets, clean water and food," he said.

Five more people were reported dead Saturday, raising the death toll from days of rain to 32 with 12 others missing, Pradeep Kodippili of the Disaster Management Center said.

Some 23,000 people have left camps, but nearly 340,000 remain homeless, he said.

As floodwaters slowly receded in the worst-hit Eastern Province, most people remained in temporary shelters today, though some in Karaithivu village in eastern Ampara district came out and cleaned their houses for rituals marking the ethnic Tamils' traditional harvest festival.

Sellaih Rasiah, a community leader in Karaithivu, said villagers affected by the devastating 2004 tsunami have lost most of their belongings and would again have to start anew. Schoolchildren have lost their books and clothes, he said.

The mud-walled hut with a coconut palm roof where Muttumari Jegathisvaran, a 25-year-old laborer, lived was collapsed. All his belongings had been flushed away and the banana trees and vegetable plants in his garden were dead and discolored.

"There is no festival for us. I have no work, no place to live," he said.

The government has estimated the flood losses at $500 million (£315m).