Monday, December 29, 2008



By T. Asok Kumar

A massive earthslip at Miriyabedda in Koslanda razed several estate lines to the ground causing the death of a 20-year-old daughter of an estate labourer. The torrential rains experienced in the area for weeks resulted in the landside at the dead of night when the occupants of the line rooms on the slopes were fast asleep. A labourer of the estate Marimuttu Raju (48) and his daughter R. Pushpareka (20) were seriously injured in the disaster, admitted to the Koslanda hospital and later transferred to the Diyathalawa General Hospital. Marimuttu recovered in a few days but the condition his daughter worsened. Meanwhile, the superintendent of the estate and government officials moved eight families from the endangered area and sheltered them in the estate hospital. Pushpareka who was unconscious for weeks underwent surgery to amputate a leg. However, she succumbed to her injuries two days later. Narrating his gruesome experience, Marimuttu said, “My eldest daughter died and we shifted to the refugee camp in the rural hospital. My daughter was to take up an appointment as a minor employee of the hospital in a couple of days, when the tragedy hit her. She was already working at a private institution to earn for the education of her brother and two sisters. Although my injuries healed, I am not able to work. We lost all our cooking utensils, plates and other household effects in the disaster. Now we are living in utter misery without any attention by the authorities who failed to provide us with any relief.”

Meanwhile, Estate Superintendent Gamini Weerasinghe said, “We immediately moved eight families from the endangered area and provided them with temporary shelter. The officials of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau commended us for taking steps to provide shelter for the displaced families in the safer location. The earth slip caused extensive damage to two of the houses. Five other houses are in danger. The displaced families could be resettled if the mound of earth is cleared. However, we must consult the Geological Survey and the Mines Bureau and we are awaiting their report. Until then the displaced families will live in the hospital building. A large area of the estate is endangered with caving in and erosion. The estate superintendent’s bungalow is one of the endangered buildings. We proposed to settle the displaced families in two of our estates in Bandarawela and to provide them employment. However, they did not agree. A housing scheme for the displaced families in Koslanda and Naketiya areas has been closed. The people are not prepared to leave their old habitats and to settle in safer locations.”

Haldumulla Divisional Secretary, Saman Ratnayake said he depends on allocations from the Provincial Council and the Disaster Management Centre to provide relief to the displaced persons in case of a disaster. “I made a report on the Miriyabedda landslide and in two weeks I received funds to pay compensation. However, it is sad that a young woman died after receiving the allocation. I made a fresh report on her death. The Divisional Secretariat does not have funds to provide relief in case of a disaster. We have pointed out that many areas in the Badulla district are vulnerable to landslides, gales and floods and requested the government to allocate adequate funds to provide relief to the displaced. The Divisional Secretariat does not have powers to alienate land belonging to the estates managed by the plantation companies. We can only grant Rs.20,000 to build a house, if the plantation company provides the land,” he added.

However, the displaced persons accused the authorities of neglecting the displaced persons without the least concern about their hardships. They stressed that the estate management and the government officials should join hands and implement an effective plan to resettle the displaced families.

No comments: