Buddhist monks from the nationalist group ‘Power of Ravana’ walk to the national meteorological office in Colombo yesterday, to protest against alleged failure of officials to forecast monsoon rain that caused havoc in the island’s south-western coast over the weekend.
The death toll from the storm in Sri Lanka has risen to 40 with some fishermen still missing, the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) in Colombo said yesterday.
DMC spokesman Sarath Lal Kumara said that the bodies of the 40 fishermen have been recovered and search and rescue operations are under way to locate those missing.
The rain and winds which hit the island early on Saturday have also destroyed more than 100 houses and damaged another 2,185 buildings, the DMC said.
The Sri Lankan air force said on Sunday that it had deployed its Beech King Air (B-200T Beechcraft) surveillance aircraft to search the coastal areas as part of a continuous joint search and rescue operation being conducted together with the navy to locate the missing fishermen.
The navy said it has also increased its search and rescue deployments and has sent one more ship along with five additional fast attack crafts for the relief operation.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse had over the weekend sought an explanation from Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera on how the public was informed about the impending storm on Friday night.
The fishermen, who were unaware of the storm, had gone out to sea on Friday and got caught under rough sea conditions. The family members of the victims blamed the department of meteorology for failing to inform the fishermen about the storm.
A group of Buddhist monks has lodged a protest with the Colombo meteorological office, accusing it of failing to alert people early enough about the strength of the monsoon.
“Your inefficiency resulted in a national calamity,” the monks said in a letter addressed to the head of the office. “We demand that you take every step possible to prevent a recurrence.”
There was no immediate comment from the met office.
The monsoon hits the country twice a year, bringing much-needed rain but also frequently causing loss of life and damage to property.
Seven people were killed in the country last month when a tropical cyclone brushed the eastern coast.