Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Govt. committed to resettle all IDPs as early as possible

With the experience gained in resettling 187,000 IDPs in the Eastern Province in the post - conflict period, the government is confident of resettling nearly 200,000 IDPs now living in welfare centers in the Wanni as early as possible. The government is committed comprehensively to ensure the well - being of the civilians who have been evacuated, said Mr. Mahinda Samarasinghe Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights addressing a media briefing at the Presidential Secretariat today(24).

The total figure of IDPs as of today is 193,960. Last four days, 105,274 civilians have escaped the no fire zone. 75% of them have been handed over to the Government Agents. 10,880 have been evacuated by the ICRC, Out of them, 4,736 are patients, and 6,144 bystanders. There are 20 sites operating in Vavuniya, 17 sites in Jaffna and 03 in Mannar, the Hon. Minister added.

The government has requested United Nations Agencies, UNCHR the UNICEF NGOs and INGOs to provide tents to provide shelter to IDPs Mr. Basil Rajapakse, Senior Presidential Advisor too has made arrangements with authorities in Dubai and Jordan to provide tents.

Steps are being taken to provide education for the children of IDPs. Their basic health needs, and drinking water are provided to ensure sanitation. The government has requested the FAO to add variety to the conventional food parcel, the Hon. Minister said.

In view of the exodus of IDPs, the critical need in this crucial hour is to provide emergency aid to IDPs.

The government will not only resettle the IDPs as in the post - conflict eastern province, but restore their livelihoods, too Relief is forth coming via several channels in response to government appeals. United Nations have requested member countries to donate funds UK, Netherlands, Germany etc have provided aid directly. In addition, NGOs contribute significantly to relief operations. Meanwhile, the Treasury has allocated massive funds for the well - being of the IDPs, the Hon. Ministers revealed.

Today, the Army is playing the role of benefactor to IDPs. They care for the sick and look after the kids. The Army is acting in the best traditions of a disciplined force. We appreciate their professionalism and respect them for the on - going humanitarian mission of caring for the displaced civilians.

The officers and the rank and file of the Security Forces are educated in Human Rights as enshrined in UN Conventions and Treaties which Sri Lanka has endorsed, when ever participating in international symposia, he requests his counterparts to explore the possibility of exposing the members of Security Forces to human rights awareness programs, the Hon. Minister said.

Dr. Palitha Kohona, Foreign Secretary said the Security Forces are strictly instructed to avoid civilian casualties Presently, Security Forces have stopped using heavy weapons but only use small arms. Some of them who are hurt among the IDPs may be combatants, Dr. Kohona revealed. The combatants who have surrendered will be rehabilitated and trained in vocations. All combatants are Sri Lankan citizens Dr. Kohona asserted.

Dr. Ishwara Kottegoda, Coordinator, Ministry of Health, Disaster Preparedness and Response Unitelaborated on the health facilities provided to IDPs. Padaviya hospital will be developed to accommodate more patients. A health Centre to cater to 10,000 IDPs has been set up. There are 40 doctors attached to welfare centers and 50 more will join them shortly.

Courtesy: MCNS

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Minor Earth tremor felt in Sri Lanka

April 15th Earth Tremor – A Messenger of an Impending Disaster?


A minor Earth tremor occurred on the 15th April 2009, which was felt at  several areas of Central, Eastern and Uva provinces in Sri Lanka. (1) The Communty Tsunami Early-warning Centre (CTEC) in Peraliya received a number of inquiries from Hambantota, Matara and Galle Districts as well. (2)

It is interesting to note that on the evening of April 14th, 1615, (just a day prior to April 15th) a strong earthquake struck Sri Lanka unleashing widespread damage and casualties in western sections of the island, most notably in Colombo. It is thought that 200 houses collapsed. A part of the western city wall of the Colombo Fort collapsed destroyed. A bastion also collapsed and destroyed a neighboring house killing 4 persons. A stone bridge was also destroyed in the earthquake. Deep fissures opened in the earth. According to a historical text (reproduced below), flames and sulphur are said to have been emitted from these fissures. It is thought that 2000 persons were killed in and around Colombo as a result of this earthquake. If the description of the damage described in this text is to be believed, this earthquake would most likely have a maximum intensity (MMI) of VIII or perhaps even IX. (3)

Knowledge of this earthquake is derived from a 4 page pamphlet published in Lisbon in 1616, the contents of which were brought to light by late Fr. S.G. Pereira, SJ a pioneer historian, proficient in several languages, Prof. in Missionology Georgian University Rome, etc.

The 15th April, 2009 earth tremor was not reported by the USGS earthquake notification service. (4) There was no Tsunami threat due to this event. This incident has been recorded by the Pallekele Seismic station, which is part of the Global Seismic network, a Geological Survey and mines bureau person stated, as a response to a a telephone inquiry. The magnitude of this quake is to be around Magnitude 4.

Sri Lanka is located in a considerably inactive zone , free of large earth quakes. Sri Lanka lies on a thick and old crustal block with no neo-tectonic activity. However, over the last few decades, our country felt minor earth tremors, one or two every year (5).

The source of these earth tremors could be three fold:

1.    The active zone near the Zundra trench, which was responsible for the Indian ocean Tsunami – No significant earth quake activity was recorded around the 15th Of April 2009 event.

2.    There is a seismically active zone from about three degrees south of Sri Lanka and extends four degrees down to the southern hemisphere. The dynamics of this region are under study. – Any activity in this region needs to be studied to determine the origin of the 15th November 2009 earth tremor.

3.    Localized seismic activity –These are not generally picked up by regional or global networks. High seismic activity has been reported in Hambegamuwa area in past instances, which is a part of localized activity.



This earth tremor is an eye opener to the Disaster Risk Management professionals especially to the experts of Geology and Seismology at the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau of Sri Lanka, to determine the Earth Quake Risk of Sri Lanka. It is high time that Disaster Risk Management practices are incorporated into the routine development activities of the country. It is better to be prepared, as we have not, as a nation, forgotten the tragedy of Tsunami which would have been easily prevented.



  1. 1.
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
  4. 4.
  5. 5.       Nalin de Silva, Earthquake hazards, Project on Determination of the outer edge of the Continental margin of Sri lanka under “UNCLOS”,  DEOCOM Project.

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Year Greetings!

Wish you a very happy, prosperous and peaceful Sinhala and Hindu New Year!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Sri Lankan Incident Map

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A challnge for Sri Lanka Disaster Managers: Acid Spills in the sea....

Compiled by Novil Wijesekara, Safer Sri Lanka

'MV Grand Bar', a ship carrying a load of 6,250 metric tons of sulphuric acid from Tuticorin to Kakinadan in India developed troubles on Monday, April 6. The crew was rescued by navy and it as found that the Sulfuric acid was leaking. The ship sank 90 nautical miles off Trincomalee. Navy managed to tow the vessel to the deep sea. It was confirmed to have gone 3,000m deep to the sea. (1)

Sulfuric acid (H2SO4) is a clear, colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is very corrosive. As the largest-volume industrial chemical produced in the world, consumption of sulfuric acid is often used to monitor a country's degree of industrialization. Agricultural fertilizers represent the largest single application for sulfuric acid (65%). Other uses include production of dyes, alcohols, plastics, rubber, ether, glue, film, explosives, drugs, paints, food containers, wood preservatives, soaps and detergents, pharmaceutical products, petroleum products, pulp and paper. The common lead-acid storage battery is one of the few consumer products that actually contains sulfuric acid is the common lead-acid storage battery. (2)

Sulfuric Acid has moderate acute (short-term) toxicity on aquatic life. Sulfuric acid is very corrosive and would badly burn any plants, birds or land animals exposed to it. It has moderate chronic (long-term) toxicity to aquatic life. Chronic effects on plants, birds or land animals have not been determined. Small quantities of sulfuric acid will be neutralized by the natural alkalinity in aquatic systems. Larger quantities may lower the pH for extended periods of time. (3)

Similar incidents have been reported in the past from other countries as well.
A ship ran aground in China's 900-year-old Grand Canal dumping 200 tons of sulfuric acid into water in the latest incident to taint the country's already severely polluted waterwaysThe Xinhua News Agency said that pollution-control officials dumped 200 tons of liquid alkali into the water within 12 hours to neutralize the acid. (4)

On November 3, a barge loaded with 235,000 gallons of concentrated sulfuric acid, overturned shortly after arriving at a dock in the Port of Texas City, near Galveston. The acid plume traveled into the deeper parts of the channel, to an area approximately 300-600 meters around the vessel. (5)

Sri Lanka government is in the process of taking legal action against the company who is responsible for the incident. Ranjith Kularatne, Chairman of the Marine Environmental Protection Authority stated that they are in the process of preparing the necessary report in this regard. (1)
This is a good opportunity to see how effective the existing plans and mechanisms for oil spills management are to handle an unforseen disaster.

1. Colombo Page, . Colombo Page. [Online] 04 09, 2009. [Cited: 04 10, 2009.]
2. [Online]
3. Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts - Government of Australia. National Polution Inventry. [Online] [Cited: April 10, 2009.]
4. AP. China Daily. [Online] 08 04, 2006. [Cited: 04 10, 2009.]
5. NOAA. National Ocean Service. National Ocean Service. [Online] 11 21, 2003. [Cited: 04 10, 2009.]