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Sri Lanka Army

Defenders of the Nation

18th May 2016 22:25:37 Hours

Army Troops Fully Alert to Need of the Hour: New Emergency Ops Room Set Up

Troops of the Army in the wake of worsening weather conditions across the island are currently engaged in multifarious relief and rescue operations in close cooperation with sister services, Police, civilians and other relevant agencies in Siripura, Elangapitiya and Pallebage in Aranayake, Dehiowita, Kohilagedara in Eheliyagoda, Dennis Worth Estate, Deraniyagala, Ilukwaththa, Ranmalaka, Pilimathalawa, Bohilwatta, Nawalapitiya and many other flood-ravaged areas, consequent upon specific instructions given by the Commander of the Army and the Ministry of Defence as this report went pasting late Tuesday (17) evening.

In what was regarded as one of the worst, initial reports reaching the Army Headquarters said a large number of civilians in Siripura, Elangapitiya and Pallebage in Aranayake area have been displaced or rendered homeless due to landslides and torrential rains that wreaked havoc with gushing storms.

Initial unconfirmed reports however spoke as many as 125 families in disaster-struck Aranayake area have lost their homes and nearly 300 civilians have been moved into a nearby school by the troops and other decision-makers. Massive lumps of soil, boulders and trees have reportedly done the worst amidst continuing torrential rains and gushing winds.

More than 170 Army personnel including 7 officers have just reached (around 10.00 p.m.) landslide-affected areas in Aranayake, avoiding flood-hit locations since some roads remained obstructed and not at all motorable.

47 Army Commandos, 78 Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment  and 52 Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment troops with the guidance given by 583 Brigade Commander are busy as at now in evacuation, rescue and relief operations, despite absence of electricity and other basic needs. Respective Disaster Management Centre officials, Policemen, members of volunteer organizations and civilians in the area are at the forefront of those operations, supporting Army personnel.

In the meantime, Office of the Chief of Defence Staff (OCDS) this evening (17) opened a special Emergency Relief Operation Room at the BMICH premises, enabling coordination of tri-service relief work and the public to contact it in the event of any disaster situation. Public can reach it through Tel: 0112674502/3, 0113075792, 0113070275, 0113818612

Similarly, the public can seek assistance from Tel:  0112434251 / 0113818578 (Army), 0112445368 / 0112212230 / 0112212231 (Navy) and 0112343970 / 0112343971 (Air Force), announced the Ministry of Defence on Monday (16).

A group of 32 Army personnel including 2 officers of 2 (Volunteer) Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment (SLSR) meanwhile have thrown their full weight behind rescue operations at Ilukwatte,Ranmalaka areas in Pilimathalawa where six occupants of two houses were buried alive Monday (16) night in a huge landslide. By Tuesday (17) evening, troops recovered three dead bodies in the landslide at Pilimathalawa and are still at work removing soil in search of others who had gone missing. (See separate story in Highlights)

A mass lump of soil that has fallen in the general area of had to be removed by Engineer troops Monday morning (16) since it has affected the movement in the area. More than 55 Army troops carried out the clearance work with the help of heavy machinery and the area was made motorable by Tuesday.  (See Separate Story in Highlights)

In the meantime, 121 Brigade troops of the 12 Division, commanded by Colonel K.A.N.N. Koswatte immediately made a detour to avoid travel across the damaged bridge at 24th Mile Post in Gonaganara along Buttala - Kataragama main road after the repair work to the bridge began Monday early morning (16). Troops with the help of civilians in the area prepared the detour and facilitated the vehicle movement that remained hindered.

Similarly, due to heavy storms that swept across Nalluruwa, Panadura areas on Sunday (15), 14 Division troops, commanded by Brigadier P.J Gamage, General Officer Commanding, 14 Division of the Security Force Headquarters - West (SFHQ-West), hurried to the area and began renovating damaged houses and other properties. Troops numbering about 165 were still re-thatching blown off roofs of those 30 houses in the area as the dusk fell on Tuesday (17).

In the meantime, Army troops attending rescue operations where several line houses of an estate in Dennis Worth Estate, Deraniyagala were washed away in a landslide, causing disappearance of three persons this morning (16), recovered the remains of one person while buried alive in the landslide. Civilians also later on recovered one more dead body from the location. More than 60 Army personnel of the 583 Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Chandula Hathnagoda, Brigade Commander, 583 Brigade who are also now in Aranayake are still engaged in those rescue and relief operations with the assistance of residents in the area. (See separate story in Highlights)

In addition, another contingent of Army troops are deployed in and around Diyawanna Oya area and the Parliament complex in the wake of swelling water levels in the Diyawanna Oya. A total of 25 Army personnel of the Sri Lanka Armoured Corps are still busy stacking sand bags along the vulnerable points that could spill water over the Oya banks. A patch of the main road near the Parliament complex that went under water has now been cleared.

Lieutenant General Crishanthe De Silva, Commander of the Army attaching the highest priority to the developing disaster situation in the country has instructed Director Operations of the Army and other relevant senior officers at provincial levels to closely monitor all updates and implement necessary rescue and relief measures in close cooperation with state agencies and other respective local authorities.

An Army medical team including 6 assistant nurses and a Medical Officer was meanwhile dispatched to the landslide-affected Dennis Worth Estate, Deraniyagala with the intention of providing emergency medical services for victims. The area had so far claimed four lives.

The Army medical team dispatched on the directions of the Lieutenant General Crishanthe De Silva, Commander of the Army was in quick response to the request of the 583 Brigade troops, still heavily engaged in rescue and relief operations despite torrential rains.

Meanwhile, Army troops of the 2 Sri Lanka Rifle Corps (SLRC) immediately took steps to evacuate more than 14 families in Bohilwatta, Nawalapitiya Monday (16) evening since their area has been prone to possible landslides owing to continuous torrential rains as per guidance of the District Secretariat, Disaster Management Centre and other relevant agencies.

The same troops after establishing a medical unit are busy providing those displaced people with necessary medical requirements.

Meanwhile, 2 Sri Lanka National Guard (SLNG) troops of the Security Force Headquarters - Central (SFHQ-C) are currently providing cooked meals, medical requirements and other basic needs required for a group of more than 90 civilians who have been relocated in Ledbrook Development Centre and the library building, Ambagamuwa after a series of mini landslides and earth slips occurred in their residential areas in the past 24 hours.

In the meantime, 2 SLRC troops jumped into action and responded to the need by clearing a huge tree that has fallen on to the Kotmale - Maswela road on Monday (16).

UPDATE:   More than 300 Army Troops with Sniffer-Dogs Now at Aranayake & Bulathkohupitiya

Sniffer-dogs and rappelling  teams of Army Commandos, Engineer and Medical Corps troops, heavy machinery, additional equipment, together with a contingent of more than 281 troops of Commandos, 4 Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment and 8 Vijaybahu Infantry Regiment under the command of Major General Kavinda Gunawardene, General Officer Commanding, 58 Division of the Security Forces Headquarters-West have now reached landslide-affected Siripura, Elangapitiya, Pallebage villages in Aranayake area for immediate search, rescue and relief operations which remained hampered for some time due to swelling waters and torrential rains.

Those operations commenced during the wee hours on Wednesday (18) are continuing with the support of villagers, other volunteer teams and hospital staff who have by now brought more than six ambulances to the affected area for evacuation of the wounded to hospitals.  The area remains under a pall of thick mist with rainy clouds, diminishing visibility and physical movements.

Meanwhile, another similar disaster has been reported  from Kalupahanawatte, Bulathkohupitiya where 6 line houses in a 12 house row had been completely destroyed in a landslide that took place early Wednesday (18) morning. More than 53 Sri Lanka National Guard troops under the command of Brigadier P.J Gamage, General Officer Commanding, 14 Division are now at the venue in order to carry out required operations.

By 7.00 a.m, troops estimated that at least 16 persons in those destroyed houses have gone missing inside mass of soil that accompanied the landslide.  Reports also confirmed that 6 females, resident in those damaged houses however managed to escape their lives with a few of their belongings.