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Relief operations in Sri Lanka hit by flash floods

By V.S. Sambandan

COLOMBO, JAN. 1. Relief operations were hit today in Sri Lanka's eastern Batticaloa and Amparai districts, the worst affected by the tsunami, following flash floods in the region. According to sources, about 2,000 persons were evacuated to safer places. "The situation is now getting back to normal and heavy vehicles have started moving," a government official co-ordinating the relief work said.

It was a sombre New Year, with no public festivities in a country that parties whenever possible. According to the latest figures, 28,551 persons are feared killed in the tsunami. A national rebuilding programme will begin on January 15.

INS Aditya arrives

The fifth Indian ship, a tanker, INS Aditya, arrived here yesterday with relief supplies, medical teams and provisions. It is to be deployed in the eastern Batticaloa region.About 1,000 Indian relief personnel are currently in Sri Lanka, the Indian High Commission said, in a statement today. A post-disaster management specialist doctor is among the medical personnel deployed.

The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has announced an assistance of (Indian) Rs. 100 crores, for the relief and rehabilitation of Sri Lanka's tsunami victims. The INS Sandhayak and INS Sukanya are in Trincomalee, while the INS Sharda and INS Sutlej are in Galle since Monday.

Six MI-17 Indian Air Force helicopters are deployed ferrying provisions, medicines and drinking water to remote areas and bringing back the stranded. Planeloads of relief assistance have also been flown in. Two naval aircraft — a Dornier, an Islander — arrived on December 29 and will be stationed here for the next several days to provide relief assistance.A full field hospital consisting of 140 medical officers, medical provisions, beds and other equipment arrived here yesterday. One section of this field hospital has been deployed in Hambantota and one section will shortly be deployed in Matara, on the southern coast. Another field hospital, INS Jamuna, is stationed in Galle.

The United States today announced its relief team consisting of about 1,500 U.S. Marines, a ship and 22 aircraft for relief operations in Sri Lanka.

An amphibious assault ship, USS Bon Homme Richard, is to be deployed shortly. The number of U.S. marines would depend on the requirement, the US Embassy here said.

The first batch of 200 marines is to arrive from their base in Okinawa, Japan, tomorrow to establish the logistics for "bigger U.S. military efforts."

"We don't know the exact requirement, but our initial plan is to have up to 1,500 marines, with one ship, 20 helicopters, two C-130 transport aircraft and one hovercraft," a U.S. military official told mediapersons.

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