Disease threat for Sri Lanka flood victims

The threat of disease loomed Saturday over the million-plus victims of floods in Sri Lanka that have left nearly 40 people dead and devastated farmland in the island’s rice bowl.

Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said medical units had been rushed to the central and eastern regions, where hundreds of thousands have been forced to take shelter in cramped, state-run relief camps.

“We are very conscious of the fact that there can be water-borne diseases and we brought medical staff from other areas to help out,” Amaraweera told AFP. “There are no reports of diarrhoea, but we are taking precautions.”

More than one million people were initially displaced in the flooding triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains in the past week.

The state Disaster Management Centre said 37 people had been officially confirmed dead, with another 12 still missing.

Several international aid agencies along with the European Union and the governments of India and the US have helped with emergency supplies, officials said.