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Lanka Sathosa, Coops, small groceries rope in to help flood victims for first time

(UDHAYAM, COLOMBO) – As latest casualty reports indicated that 48659 families (And counting) were hit by flood deluge in Ratnapura District, Minister of Industry and Commerce announced immediate measures beyond ration delivery to even livelihood revival on Saturday (03). And for the first time, the Government is directly making use of Sri Lanka’s small grocery shop system for urgent disaster relief.

“Continuation of livelihoods, after floods, is also important. I have directed my Ministry officials to revive the small and medium businesses and industries in Ratnapura that have been destroyed,” announced Rishad Bathiudeen on Saturday in Ratnapura. Minister Bathiudeen who has been appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena for flood relief action in Ratnapura Electorate, was addressing the relief activity meeting held at Ratnapura DS Office on the afternoon of 3 June.

Minister Bathiudeen was joined by Minister of Labour W. D. J. Seneviratna, Ratnapura District Parliamentarians, officials from DS offices, members from affected families, officials of Ministry of Industry and Commerce and Buddhist monks. In the morning of 3 June, just prior to the afternoon session, Minister Bathiudeen joined the Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan, and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Member of Parliament (MP) Mavai Sanathiraja who were in Ratnapura City to inspect the disaster aftermath.

“We are receiving reports that more than 48,659 families and 187,305 people are displaced and it will increase once the difficult to reach areas are accessed. Of the 48,000 families, 16,000 are in Ratnapura Electorate, mostly in the city and outskirts – to whom we sent dry rations immediately. We need to assess the damage well first. The estimated loss for Ratnapura District is reportedly around Rs. 530 million and Ratnapura Electorate around Rs. 130 million but these are early estimates and damage could be higher. For relief to be useful we should assist not only affected people but should go further – give support to revive destroyed SMEs, small crafts and industries and infrastructure construction. I have instructed Lanka Sathosa under my Ministry to issue essentials free of charge to Divisional Secretaries who will then distribute to each family. The Government will bear the costs of these supplies. I also decided to connect Coop-Shops and small grocery stores for urgent relief delivery. We started working to deliver essentials to the affected people through Coop-Shops and small grocery stores free of charge in addition to Lanka Sathosa outlets, and the Government will reimburse these businesses. “Continuation of livelihoods, after floods, is also important. I have directed my Ministry officials to revive the small and medium businesses and industries in Ratnapura that have been destroyed. I am directing officials of National Enterprise Development Authority (NEDA) and Industry Development Board (IDB) under my Ministry to set up a mobile SME and SMI assessment unit and conduct a rapid assessment of these and the number of livelihoods lost from damage to them. I call my officials to give me a report by Tuesday 6 after which we start assistance to revive them.

“Apart from small businesses, we will support affected small industries such as carpentry shops, mechanical and repair shops etc. I have also been told that paddy fields are damaged and I have directed the DS officials to look into the extent of destruction. I have been told that sanitary situation in displaced camps here are good since doctors are visiting all the camps three times a day and we will maintain this in the coming days until the families are sent back. We shall provide 20 water pumps and workers for urgent water well cleaning. Bab-cats will be given for flood related garbage removal. We will immediately provide Rs. 100,000 each for 14 Buddhist temples, two churches and two Hindu temples that are damaged.”

During the recent floods, Ratnapura City was inundated unprecedentedly, and residents reported even surrounding lands too were submerged – by 5 to 8 ft. water levels at many locations – destroying countless gem mines that the city is famous for and many tracts of paddy fields.

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